12 Year old girl on the spectrum who thinks she is typical (more info)
Thank you to everyone who has replied. I feel like I need to add more history to her story because I am not trying to change her in any way. We have always been supportive of her in every way. Again, this is a quick background. If I wrote everything, this post would be pages long. And it's still long, so if you read it, thank you for your patience.
She has always been very bright and verbal. She would have intense interest that would last for a few months, sometimes the whole school year if other kids were interested in the same thing. Starting in her elementary school years, she started to only hang out with boys because she had always been active and she liked doing what boys did. She liked wearing boys clothing. Fine. She actually refused to even go into the girls dept and would only shop in the boys dept. For a few years, she would also only wear boys underwear. And in 5th grade, when it was time for her to wear a bra, she absolutely refused and would only wear sports bras. Again, whatever. And, she did go back to wearing girls underwear. I just wanted her to be comfortable, so it didn't really matter to me. The thought did occur to me about her having gender identity issues. The only thing that I really didn't like about her playing with boys is that she just dismissed girls out of hand. If someone was a girl, she did not want to have anything to do with them. If there was a boy around, she immediately made a beeline for the boys. I have had numerous discussions with her throughout her different ages about not judging a book by its cover, just because someone is a girl doesn't mean you won't like her, you need to get to know someone before you can make any kind of judgment, just because someone is a boy doesn't necessarily mean he'll be a good friend, etc. I have always been of the mindset that I would let my kids explore whatever they wanted to do and keep the gender out of it. I have always disliked the gender-specific toys and the way toymakers market to genders, but I digress.
She has also had various anxieity issues over the years, separation anxiety as a baby and toddler, worries about robbers coming into our house and hurting us, if she saw a commercial for heart disease, she would start worrying that she had it, if she had a headache, was it a tumor, germs, you name it, she worried about it.
During her entire elementary school career, all of her friends were boys, which again was fine, except for the fact that I was looking to the future when she would enter middle school, and I knew that girls and boys tend to be very segregated (at least in our community, which is very conservative). Even when her class had to break into groups, she would always be with the boys. And all of the boys have always been very accepting of her. I think girls in her class wanted to get to know her, but she would pretty much just blow them off. She had had a rough 4th grade with being disruptive in class with a friend of hers, and being mean to some of the kids in her class. She also had some reading issues in that she never wanted to read because she couldn't find any books that she liked. She would read about 10 pages in and then tell the teacher that she didn't like it and just wouldn't read it anymore. Then in 5th grade, she was found to have some reading, possible dyslexia, and visual tracking issues. She took whatever tests she had to take to have an IEP opened for her. She was given a multi-factor test, I can't remember the exact name. She finishes out her fifth grade, and IEP for reading help is opened for her and we all have high hopes for middle school. Oh, and in 5th grade, her interest was Bear Grylls, outdoors, and survivalism.
Middle school: 6th grade. She has now decided that if she is going to be popular, she needs to dress more sporty, which means nylon shorts and shirts (still boys), and she is going to hang around the popular boys. In her mind, they should be accepting of her because she now likes sports (which up until then she hated), and she is dressing like them. She does get some teasing, a little bit of bullying, but she seems to be standing her ground. She actually tries to talk to some girls, and it seems to go ok, but she doesn't really ask anyone to come over. And the girls that she went to elementary school with, she sits with them at lunch, but it is really awkward because they really don't want her to sit with them, but thankfully, they are too polite to tell her to go away. Then around the middle of the school year, she just takes a nose dive. Her school work starts to suffer, her grades plummet (from A's and B's to D's and F's), she shuts down in class, does not class work, starts writing profane works all over her work books and papers, is extremely disruptive in class, is easily frustrated, and storms out of the class room when she gets mad. At home, her germaphobia gets very extreme where she wants the entire family to wash hands after we've been outside, doesn't want us to touch anything for her if our hands are not washed, yet will not do things on her own if we refuse to wash hands; she started having really bad temper tantrums when we did not do what she wanted us to do, which would last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. We were unable to reason with her and had to just let her scream. And, at school, in between all of anger she showed and profane words she was writing, she then talked about wanting to be dead. Her school counselor was wonderful, and helped us alot. She had already been in counseling because she was getting so hard to handle, but this was going on to a whole new level. We had some counselor issues where we had to switch, and we were trying to get her into a psychiatrist. We finally ended up in the ER because of her suicidal ideations. And with help from our pediatrician, we got her to a psychiatrist, put her on meds which calmed her down alot, and found a new psychologist for counseling. And her old psychologist (who gave her the worst care ever!) diagnosed her with Asperger's.
Now, the wierd thing is, within 3 days of being on her medication, she decided that she no longer wanted to dress like a boy, and she wanted to dress like a girl. Now this was an idea that she had been mulling over for probably about a year. And we had talked about how she could transition her look from boy to more feminine, but she could never quite take the leap. Well, the medication cleared her head or something, because she wanted to dress like a girl. So, in trying to be supportive, we went shopping and bought all the right clothes because I knew it was important to her that she look the right way, and they she looked like all the other girls in her class. And, she had met a couple of girls who were encouraging her to change the way she dressed. Again, she got some teasing, but seemed to take it all in stride, and she got alot of compliments on the way she was dressing. So she felt good. Things seemed to be looking up on the friends front, although her school counselor did tell me that the girls that she had started hanging out with did not have the best social skills. And really hanging out with girls was all new for my daughter. So far, so good, though. Everything seemed to be falling into place.
Summer: now: She gets an iPod Touch for her birthday, which can pretty much do anything an iPhone can do except dial out as long as she has WiFi. We let her use it, pretty much unsupervised, which was our first mistake. She starts texting friends, gets on Instagram, gets the Kik app and seems to be doing OK. When she got her Touch, we had told her that I could check it whenever I wanted to, not be nosy, but for her safety, which, of course, she complained. Long story short, she was having very personal conversations with girls she didn't know very well. She thought she could just start texting all the popular kids and be their BFFs. She started to obsess about having a boyfriend because she perceived that all the girls had one. We told her that she was not allowed to date, yet still would look for boys to meet; asking all her friends, any boys she knew. She is trying so desperately to make connections and it's blowing up in her face. She also had a falling out with one of the girls she started hanging out with, and that started drama I would look at her Touch and read her conversations and give her tips on how to maybe better handle a conversation. And then I found a very disturbing conversation that she had with a couple of boys that was sexual in nature and that was it. And on another site where kids can comment anonymously, someone also started bullying her and making fun of her and how she changed the way she dressed. After that one conversation I read, though, she lost her privilege of using her Touch for a couple of weeks, while her dad and I decided what to do. We talked to her counselor, and now she has very limited use of it. But, honestly she is addicted to it. And in one of her sessions, she told her counselor that she didn't understand why we had taken away her Touch after I had read that conversation, and that all of her "friends" not only have an iPhone but get to use it however they want. She is trolling for any kind of attention, positive or negative, and it's hard to watch. She is not in a good place, it's better, but still not good. And I think her 7th grade year is going to be rough. I think alot of kids think she's wierd, and that she might do anything for attention. She is very naive, and I know that other kids have taken advantage of that.
So, that is part of my dilemma. She is struggling. On some level, she also knows she's struggling, but doesn't want to admit to it. All I want is for her to be happy with herself, and she's just not. On the one hand, she has a very strong sense of self because she dressed the way she wanted to even if it was outside of the norm, but on the other hand she thinks she's ugly and just wants people to like her. She has no close friends, and no meaningful relationships with any kids. If she had even ONE friend who was a true friend, then it would be great. So how can we help her realize that she does need some help in some areas? We don't want to lower her self-esteem or change who she is, but we just want to help her make the connections she seems to so desperately want. She seems to think that now that she dresses like a girl, she can just start hanging out with the popular kids. And some of them are nice about it, but others, particularly boys, have told her to f--- off, Needless to say, it's been a very stressful summer and I really want to help her.
So, maybe my question (how do you get your child to understand the challenges they have?) may not have been worded very well, but we just don't know how to help her if she doesn't want to help herself when she very clearly needs help.