We took Rob to see a job coach who specializes in working with high functioning autism/AS teens and adults, because Rob was having trouble keeping a job, and having trouble in school. The coach told us about the “2/3 rule” — and I wonder how I had never heard of it before. It explains so much.
The 2/3 rule: think of your AS/HFA child as being emotionally and socially 2/3 of his chronological age.
That means that Rob, who is about to turn 21, is really about 14 in his social/emotional development and judgment. That was an eye opener for us – especially for Rob’s dad, who tends to underestimate Rob’s level of impairment. We had always thought of Rob as being 3-4 years behind in social development, which was of course true when he was younger; but the gap has grown since he has gotten older. The irony is that he has this level of emotional and social judgment in a 21 year old, 6’3″ 180 lb. body.
This explains several things. We should not have let him drive when we did. We waited until he was well over eighteen to let him get his license, thinking that was about right; but that meant he was really only 12 in judgment, which explains the speeding tickets and general disregard for traffic rules that resulted in him losing his license. He will be 24 or 25 before we let him try to drive again.
He has also had trouble keeping motivated in school and at work. But if he is just now getting to be 14, that also explains alot.
On the positive side, it explains some developments we have seen in him: the ability to think more abstractly, to empathize more, and an increased interest and ability to be social.
Most of all, it helps us understand that he will need significant support until he is about 30. We do not expect 14 yr olds to be able to support themselves, or to have the drive and vision to keep motivated at school and work without some significant assistance. That should seem obvious, but Rob is smart and big, and actually does pretty well for himself, so it is easy to overestimate his emotional capabilities. I don’t want to underestimate him; but we don’t want to set him up for frustration and failure either. This rule will help us find the right balance, I hope.
Rob has had two girlfriends over the past few years. His first relationship lasted about three months. He took her to her senior prom and then they dated through the summer, but broke up by mutual agreement when she went out of state for college in the fall. That was when he was 19 and she was 18.
But then, about a year ago, he really fell in love with a girl who turned out to be quite a bit younger–still in high school. They met at an anime convention. I think we were all worried about the age difference, although of course she is probably more his psychological age even if there is a big difference chronologically. They dated for about 4 months, and he was really gone over her. Then she broke up with him, I suspect because he was getting too intense. She said that it wasn’t him, it was her needing to get her head on straight (which I think is probably true). While I don’t think he crossed any boundaries, perhaps he wasn’t able to read her doubts? Anyway, he was devastated. They have continued to be “friends” but I know he still wants to get back together with her. It has been really hard to watch.
I know some aspies avoid romantic relationships as being too difficult. Others are able to marry and have a family. Rob for most of his teenage life said he would never marry, and for the most part wasn’t interested in having a girlfriend. So I’m encouraged that he is trying out this part of his life; but I worry about sex.
He has grown up to be very tall and handsome and athletic, so girls are interested in him. He plays on an adult league sports team, and has made many friends of both sexes through that experience. Of course, he doesn’t confide in me about his sexuality, but he does know about contraception and how to use it, and the facts of procreation and how it happens. He also knows the laws, so that sex with this girl was out because of her age (I asked him directly, and that’s what he told me). He has looked at porn (alot as a teenager), and I know when he was in Japan they went to the red light district one night. Don’t know if anything happened there. Since he’s technically an adult I suppose it’s none of my business, but as a parent you want to know that he is being respectful and understanding of the girl; and you don’t want him to get in trouble inadvertantly because of his poor social skills.
I know an undiagnosed aspie who, when he was a young man, was accused once of sexual harrassment, and once of stalking a girl. He lost a job over the harrassment, but he still has no idea what he did (knowing him, I suspect he commented on her figure in an inappropriate way, thinking he was giving her a compliment.) And the “stalking” was him having trouble accepting “no” as an answer from a girl who only wanted to be friends but did not want to date him. He was emotionally involved and kept writing to her.
In neither case did he intend to harass the woman involved; he was just clueless about boundaries and was being self-absorbed. So I worry about a misunderstanding like this happening with Rob. Not to mention the complications that can come with sex.
At this point I feel that all I can do is pray, knowing he has had good training. And when he is in a relationship with a girl, I ask him point-blank about his sex life. It makes him uncomfortable but someone has to do it.