Our son (pictured in his prep year photo) was diagnosed at 14 with Asperger syndrome, a form of autism. For our son, one of the most obvious issues was social problems. To say he is socially awkward is an understatement. He has three good friends who have been his solid and true friends since grade 6, but he has struggled to form other friendships. He has always struggled academically, he is not sporty, he wears very thick glasses, he speaks in a monotone and he takes everything said very literally. He is not exactly a guy that the cool group are drawn to.
Through Xbox LIVE, he has found a worldwide community who do not judge him based on his appearance.
Xbox LIVE works through an Xbox console, via the Internet, and links up millions of gamers who play as teams. You wear headphones with a microphone so you can talk with the other players. You can start your own game and invite specific people to play with you (who are also online via Xbox). You can work in pairs to achieve goals within a game. You can put a ‘shout-out’ stating you want to play and wait to be invited by someone else, somewhere else on our planet. (There are many other options available through Xbox LIVE but this is how J-man uses it.)
Our son has had to learn to accept and adapt his attitude if he wants to be invited into online games. He has learned that the world is full of many different points of view and although you can express your opinion, you must also accept that not all people will agree. At the same time, he has learned that even if you disagree on some points you can still communicate and work as part of a team.
He has learned that sometimes your teammates let you down, and that sometimes, despite your best efforts, you will let your teammates down. He has learned that when that happens, instead of having a meltdown and un-friending everyone, most people just shrug it off and say “never mind, we’ll try again”. He has learned that what a word means in one country does not always mean the same thing in another country – ask an American for a root and they will get you a type of beer or a cheer for a football team. In Australia…well…you know what I’m saying.
Through a random meeting on a game, he has made several regular friends, one of whom has taken the time to drive to our home and visit for the weekend. Another living in the US has sent his US army badges as an exchange and J has sent Aussie army badges back. He has made friends with a young Aussie soldier, just finished basic training, who is giving him all the tips on getting fit and ready for his entry physical.