Daniel and MaryCaroline Lethe
“If you think about someone with autism as a puzzle, every piece is important,” she said. “The family, the school, friends, clinicians and support staff are all critical in the overall development of someone with Asperger’s.”
“You look at somebody who has Asperger’s, and you compare them to Swiss cheese,” Ellen’s husband David said. “There are holes in empathy and not being able to deal with sarcasm.” David, too, has Asperger’s.
“It’s like I see the world in black and white and everyone else sees it in color,” 15-year-old Daniel said.
“Asperger’s make me feel different from other people,” 13-year-old MaryCaroline said. “And when people make fun of it, it just hurts my feelings.”
Determined to give their children as much access as possible to a program that could improve their social skills, Ellen and David enrolled Daniel and MaryCaroline in the Center for BrainHealth’s social cognition study.
“We live in a social world and you have to get along with all kinds of people,” said Ellen. “Through the study at BrainHealth, Daniel and MaryCaroline were able to truly practice social interaction.”
She continued, “Those with Asperger’s don’t understand hypothetical situations and the virtual world gave both Daniel and MaryCaroline a version of reality.”
“The simulation and interview scenarios were helpful and the scenes were realistic,” Daniel said of the social cognition intervention. “Dealing with people you don’t like was also a good part of the program.”
“The scenes were just like in real life,” said MaryCaroline. “I had trouble dealing with a kid who was beating me at a game and I got frustrated. It made me practice interacting, and I would like to come back to get more practice.”
“The social cognition project didn’t solve Daniel and MaryCaroline’s problems in navigating social situations,” said Ellen. “But it sure helped them gain more confidence in asserting themselves. The beauty of the virtual world is the real people are removed. You can mess up, a therapist is there to debrief you and you go and try again.”