Living in a Cat World

15 March 2010: More on this topic is in the blog entry “Transitions for Young Adults with Neurocognitive Deficits”

Yesterday, my daughter Jessica published a wonderful blog post called Some things that work about a superb teacher, Linda Herreshoff. Linda was my son’s teacher for three years at Jordan Middle School in the Palo Alto Unified School District. Linda’s class is full of kids like Paul, who have social-cognitive challenges often diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum label, like: Asperger’s syndrome, high functioning Autism, Non-Verbal Learning Disorder, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). Almost all of Linda’s kids are boys who are smart or very smart and have parents who will not give up. Paul matured and learned and thrived in Linda’s class as never before. Her love, wisdom, teaching skill, and patience are awesome.

Part of Jessica’s blog post was a reference to the Liller Family Blog Entry on Asperger’s Syndrome, which starts off with this excellent summary:

Most children live in a dog world: A dog loves to be around people and socially interact with them. They willingly show affection, and follow their master’s commands. They also love to play and hang around other dogs no matter what activity their engaged in.

Asperger’s children live in a cat world: A cat is generally a loner. They prefer doing things their own way and like/need their solitude. Cats come to people on their own terms in their own time and they aren’t very social unless they choose to be. They have a routine and like to stick to it. They have one interest at a time (usually that silly piece of string they love to paw at). And when backed into a corner, a cat will lash out.

Paul is almost six feet tall now and just about done with his Sophomore year in High School. We were thrilled today to hear that he has just passed the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE). (Paul will be in High School for two more years. He took the CAHSEE this year just in case he needed several tries to pass it.) During our family dinner tonight celebrating Paul’s passing the CAHSEE, John and Jessica and Paul and I made a list of benefits and disadvantages of Paul’s social-cognitive challenges. As you will see, the two are almost mirror images of each other:

  • Benefits
    • Completely unaware of peer pressure
    • Amazing ability to concentrate
    • Generous, loving, and much given to small acts of meaningful kindness
    • Believes in long-term commitment, dedicated and loyal
    • Fastidious
    • Doesn’t lie well
    • Good sense of direction, sequencing, and paths
    • Loves ritual
    • Good at card and board games because he remembers all of the rules and the details of play
  • Disadvantages
    • Perseverant, stubborn, hard to influence
    • Gets stuck emotionally – sometimes needs help to move on
    • Can’t organize things – homework or papers or his room
    • Finds change difficult
    • Slow to mature
    • Extremely literal
    • Holds grudges with a very long memory
    • Does not take tests well
    • Follows all of the rules and expects everyone else to also

Of course, some of these behaviors sound like any teenage boy… (Also, Jessica says she treats all of her Engineering friends like they have Asperger’s and this works very well.)

Paul has been enjoying taking Art this year. Here he is with his new self-portrait.
2 July 2020 update: see Paul’s art portfolio on Paulselement
Paul's portrait and planning sheet photo: copyright 2008 Katy Dickinson

Paul and his portrait photo: copyright 2008 Katy Dickinson

Images Copyright 2008 by Katy Dickinson

29 Dec 2016 – Links Updated


Filed under Home & Family

2 responses to “Living in a Cat World

  1. Pingback: Transitions for Young Adults with Neurocognitive Deficits « KatysBlog

  2. Pingback: Benefits of Dementia | KatysBlog

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