Roommate Troubled
August 28, 2007 8:07 PM   Subscribe

How do I be a good roommate to a gal with severe Asberger's?

I am currently attending a weight-loss college program, and us nine kids spend ALL our time together. 8 of us get along really well, and then there's K. K is occasionally a very sweet girl, but most of the time, she is loud, inappropriate, odd, and grating. I understand the condition, and am mostly able to separate her from it, but I'd like some tips for all of us not to go crazy-nuts, and manage to deal with her like a member of the group. Thoughts? E-mail for more at
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not to be overly pedantic, but it's spelled "aspergers". Try reading up on it if you get a chance. It's still a bit of a shotgun diagnosis and those who might fall into the category might not exhibit all the classical symptoms. I think the best way I've found to deal with so-called problem cases is to simply relax when they begin to act out. Like guitar strings, people tend to resonate at the same tempo of each other. Adding more tension to the mix compounds the problem.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:35 PM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

But, er, isn't a part of Aspergers syndrome that these individuals don't resonate like guitar strings? That is, they often can't figure out what other people's mood and reactions are. They don't have the innate social cognition to "sense" tension that we do.

I used to teach in a school with lots of kids on the autism spectrum. Given my experience there, I would just be as kind and explicit as possible with her. Tell her that you would appreciate it if she didn't do behavior x, and (even better) give her a substitute behavior to do instead.

That is to say, often people with Aspergers can learn social skills if they're taught explicitly. I had a student who would always leave my classroom and then come back a second later to say goodbye -- that is, he had been explicitly taught to say goodbye when you leave a room, but he tended to forget until the last minute.

Overall though, I'd second Burhanistan's advise to just be patient. You're here at this camp for, I imagine, not too long, and it's probably likely that K will not be able to learn anything new in terms of social skills in such a short time. Try to enjoy and love her for the extremely quirky person that she is.
posted by HeroZero at 9:44 PM on August 28, 2007

I think the best way I've found to deal with so-called problem cases is to simply relax when they begin to act out.

This is what I have been told. It feels uncomfortable to be around someone who does not act in line with general social expectations, but they cannot help it, and trying to control them (even in nice ways, like being overfriendly) will compound stress for them. It's best to just observe how the person chooses to socialize with the group, and let them act as they wish- if they want to participate, listen and engage, if they wish to withdraw, let them go and do not chase them. Hearing it put this way freed me of a lot of the guilt of dealing with "special needs" people (guilt over not trying really hard to engage them, not chasing after them when they withdraw from a situation, etc.)
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:45 PM on August 28, 2007 [3 favorites]

i second the comment about being explicit, but if you have to say something, try to avoid doing it infront of others, no sense embarassing them. the way i view it is that they are just socially ignorant of some behaviours and what they mean, or what is / isn't appropriate. It's not like you can "fix them" or anything, and you don't want to play shrink, but if they are doing something, socially.. jarring, then the best thing to do is say something to them without making a big deal about it, but then, IANAPsychologist. good luck!
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 11:50 PM on August 28, 2007

Not to be overly pedantic, but it's spelled "aspergers".

Isn't it spelled "Asperger's"?
posted by dance at 2:17 AM on August 29, 2007 [4 favorites]

Making your daily routine as regular as possible would help add structure and stability, which is what people with autism spectrum disorders prefer. At the same time though, you don't want to have to plan your life around your roomate...
posted by doppleradar at 5:47 AM on August 29, 2007

I agree with Dillonlikescookies.

If it's necessary be explicit and discreet. Explicit doesn't have to mean forceful or rude, doing it friendly and casual is the best option. It's good to be discreet when you're telling her but keeping the whole conversation between the two of you is even better. When behavior is jarring the rest of the group will talk about it, but it doesn't help. That probably makes K feel weird. Avoiding the social dynamic of us normal ones and the weirdo; if it's already there, don't intensify it.
posted by BigSky at 5:53 AM on August 29, 2007

Read this comment.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:23 AM on August 29, 2007

For my Aspie son, I must remember to state everything very explicitly and not to rely on non-spoken information or inference to communicate. For example, instead of saying, "This place is a mess." and expecting her to help clean it up, say, "Would you please pick up your trash".

Thanks for the link, BrotherCaine, it was very interesting.
posted by CRS at 9:06 AM on August 29, 2007

also, I've been dealing with AS family members for the best part of 20 years and I still misspell it with a B. Let's not be so pedantic!
Good link B Caine. That whole thread is useful.
But basically grow a bit of a thick skin and don't take anything personally.
posted by Wilder at 6:33 AM on September 4, 2007

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