I apologize, but I really blew it. I have failed you all big time. I forgot to let you know that every year, September 19th is International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Now you’ll have to wait a whole year before it comes around again.
Some of you might not be all that upset about missing International Talk Like A Pirate Day. You may feel that you can get along just fine in life with never learning how to exchange basic pleasantries with your neighborhood swashbucklers. That’s fine. It’s your life and you can choose how to live it. But it’s not fair to our children if we don’t encourage them to learn. Our kids have enough social problems already, it’s just not right to impair them further.
After all, if you child has Asperger’s/high functioning autism, he or she is a Geek. (If you don’t believe me or aren’t exactly sure what a Geek actually is or you think the word “Geek” is an insult, go read my post “Your Child is a Geek (and That’s a Good Thing)”.) As a Geek, when he grows up there’s a good chance he’ll end up surrounded by other Geeks. If he goes to college, he’ll probably end up in a Geek major (like biology, chemistry or art.) He’ll have Geek classmates and once he gets a job, he’ll have Geek co-workers (like computer programmers, musicians or engineers.) Hopefully by that time your child will have the appropriate social skills to make friends in his Geek environment.
Unfortunately, while a lot of research has gone into figuring out how to teach our kids how to get along in the typical world, not much has been done to determine which skills are necessary for them to survive in the Geek world. Which is too bad, because while it’s certainly important for them to know how to interact with “normies”, it’s probably in the Geek world where they’ll find their friends and spouses.
Think about it – most folks make friends with people who have similar interests. That’s true for typical people and it’s true for those with autism. We like having other people around who are into the things that fascinates us. For typical folks that might mean cars, sports, quilting, gardening or riding dirt bikes. For Geeks it’s more likely to be Ham radio, astronomy, World of Warcraft, Pokemon or building an historically accurate life-sized castle using only the tools available during a particular time period. (Yeah, for real: http://ozarkmedievalfortress.com/. Larry the Cable Guy helped, too.) Whatever our kids’ areas of interest, they’re going to find other folks who share those interests. Our job as parents is to make sure they’ve got the tools to interact with them once they do.
Like I said, not much research has been directed toward helping our kids develop those skills, which means you’re just going to have to take my word that I know what I’m talking about. (Is this a great gig or what!) In my extensive research (developed by successfully working as a computer programmer on a variety of multi-person teams and hosting some kickin’ poker parties for coworkers) I’ve learned the following (listed in order of importance):
1) Geeks don’t like stinky people any more than anyone else does. Therefore, we need to teach our kids good hygiene skills.
2) In order to fit into a Geek group, one has to have knowledge about whatever the group’s main interests are. However, knowledge in other typically Geek areas of interest can carry a lot of weight, too. The guy who’s into making chain mail is going to be more interested in listening to someone talk about how to build a functioning light saber than the guy who’s into football will. Geeks attract Geeks, not matter what their affiliation.
3) The status of any particular person in a Geek group is measured by his knowledge about interests shared by that group, modified by any tendency he has to act like an arrogant jerk or ignore social rule #1. Geeks like smart people unless they’re arrogant or they stink.
4) There are a few Geeks who feel anyone who isn’t as knowledgeable about their areas of interest as they are is stupid. These guys are the arrogant jerks. Often they stink.
5) If someone can make a bunch of Geeks laugh by making intelligent jokes about that group’s areas of interest, he’s totally in, even if he isn’t the most knowledgeable guy in the room. Geeks have a great sense of humor. Okay, jocks may not get their sense of humor, but other Geeks do.
What all these social rules boil down to is, the more our kids get into Geek areas of interest, the more likely they are to have friends. While the typical rules of society will still apply to them (they can’t call people stupid and they have to bathe), their knowledge is going to play a big part in their social acceptance in the Geek world.
And that’s why your kid ought to learn how to talk like a pirate. So that one day when Talk Like A Pirate Day rolls around, he’ll be able to talk to that cute girl who sits next to him in Computer Programming 101 and he’ll sound like a suave, charming knave instead of a doof, and then there will be a courtship marked by trips to the Renaissance Faire and the gifting of duct tape roses, a wedding complete with a minister dressed like Yoda, and eventually, the pitter-patter of little Geek feet. Or to simplify: you want to be a grandparent one day, don’t you?