Thank you, Mr. Hogwan, Pt. 2


Spoke with the boy’s homeroom teacher today, Y attending and translating.

He described the boy’s behavior exactly as I had:

  • an elevated estimation of his own abilities and the need to talk about them
  • can only see his own perspective
  • unpopular with the other students
  • can not comprehend some instructions
  • obsession with entering student competitions, even when possessing no qualifications
  • saying thoughtless things without understanding or remorse.

The other teachers have also had problems with the boy.  Past attempts to convince the parents met resistance, because the parents refuse to acknowledge he has a problem and because the private counseling referral is too expensive, and they are poor.  (the boy doesn’t own a cell phone, and in Korea that is practically unheard of)  I believe this referral was to counsel what they thought were behavioral problems, but nobody recognized that this could be  Aspberger’s syndrome or a real learning disability.  Sadly, the boy is subject to beatings at home.  I’m sure it is because he is so frustrating to deal with, and everyone thinks he is being difficult, when actually he just is literally clueless about society and can’t make the connections necessary because he truly doesn’t think he has a problem.

I told Y this is correctable with proper therapy.  Y was a little upset, because it didn’t seem like his home-room teacher was willing to put further effort into helping the boy, and his homeroom teacher also relayed how the boy seems increasingly frustrated and resentful.   She contacted silly steps to see what he thought, since he is a counselor at a middle school, and he gave her the number for a private counselor here so the boy could get tested.  But again, that would come out of the parent’s pockets, since the Korean health system does not cover psychological services.  We also don’t know if this counselor has any experience with Aspberger’s syndrome.  He informed us that all the Korean schools were supposed to get counselors next year, so I can only hope that the boy gets some services before he graduates.  I only wish his obsession was not about winning a contest. and something more marketable like accounting or science.  Otherwise, he might have a very unsatisfactory future ahead of himself.

And now, I have to adapt my lesson plan so he can have a small moment in the sun and try and show him that others can be interesting.  Perhaps I will turn him into a reporter and have him interview the others.  Hopefully, the others in the class will be patient with him, if he shows up now that he knows I will not be playing games, giving out candy, and making him the focus of the spotlight.

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11 thoughts on “Thank you, Mr. Hogwan, Pt. 2

  1. Do you think its Aspberger’s? or maybe just another form of autism? i went to school with kid who was diagnosed with Aspbergers and he was friends with my brother. when you first met him you knew something was up and he would always be babbling to himself about something. he had this ability to tell you what day of the week you were born on if you gave him your birthday. but he was a really smart kid and tested really high on standardized tests. he even went to one of the best universities in virginia. i thought if you had Aspbergers you had to have an almost idiot savant type component. it kinda just sounds like mr hogwan is an abused, autistic kid. and this reminds me dennis leary and his rant about autism. he’s such an asshole but he cracks me at the same time, i cant help it.

  2. Don’t know, actually, but I think he definitely has a learning disorder. His teacher said he is at low level in many things. And yet, when I talk to him, it seems to me his understanding is VERY HIGH, so I think his intelligence level is also being misdiagnosed. He can express himself and does it too much. He just wants to talk about himself, and have the world evolve around him, and doesn’t understand about other people’s feelings and social rules surrounding that.

    From what I read, it sounds like many aspbergers do excel at their obsessions. But it wasn’t characterized as being anywhere near the level of an idiot savant. He could have high functioning autisim, but it is his CLUELESSNESS about the people around him that makes me suspect aspbergers. If you read that link I sent, he really seems to match those examples. He is one that would announce out loud that someone smells bad, without a second thought as to how that might make someone feel. It is as if he stopped maturing socially at age four and stayed there the rest of his life. Maybe he can learn knowledge, but by being socially clueless, he doesn’t benefit from it and can’t demonstrate it.

  3. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome when I was in school, and I want to thank you for making an effort to help this student. I know from my experience that teachers can make the difference for those of us on the autism spectrum.

  4. It’s my pleasure (and pain!)…

    Oooh, my answer just got really long, so I am posting it as Thank you Mr. Hogwan, Part 3…

  5. LOL i think the announcing when someone smells bad is a korean thing! my 6th graders and even my coteachers like to inform me when kids smell bad in the presence of said kid.

    but in other news im getting all of my files sent over here so i can formally renounce my korean citizenship and tie up that loose end once and for all. i’ll probably end up changing my visa at the same time because, well why not right? i cant wait to show you my “conception story” which pretty much parallels your lady of the night narratives. im beginning to think they have a list of them that they just copy and paste into peoples records.

  6. Good for you! Don’t take any chances getting conscripted into the army! Not that that would happen, but still…can’t be too careful.

    And also good for you about the Visa. Now you can legally teach private lessons if you want to.

    As for, “im beginning to think they have a list of them that they just copy and paste into peoples records.” Many a Korean adoptee has thought the same thing………..

    right now, I am privy to reading (must remain unpublished, sorry) Korean social worker accounts of their encounters with young unwed mothers. QUITE enlightening. It’s really not their fault or even decision most of the time that most of the younger adoptees were relinquished. It was then and is still now the dark ages here when it comes to social services, resources, sex education, and women’s rights.

    Oh, and the smelling bad example was independent of anything the boy said – merely an example. I guess I should have chosen something else!

  7. btw, Cedric, is your life better after therapy, and do you have any tips for me to improve this boy’s life in the short time I have with him?

  8. I was blessed with a good sense of humor, and my lack of social awareness meant that failures and faux pas didn’t haunt me. Grades K to 3 were pretty lonely and unpleasant, but between grades 4 and 7 I gradually acquired a reputation as a smart and funny person who was worth knowing. By the time I reached high school in the medium-sized Midwestern town I grew up in, I had many friends, and I found it easy to ignore those who continued to give me a hard time.

    I had a similar experience in college. Unfortunately my post-college career wasn’t the most successful, but I have been able to live independently. I’m now in professional school, hoping to make myself more employable.

    In general, I think that it’s the teachers who are good teachers in general that are the ones I was most successful with. Guidance counselors played a minor role because my state (Minnesota) does not employ a lot of them. (792:1 pupil-to-counselor ratio, second highest in the U.S.)

    I’m not a teacher so I don’t think I can offer any specific tips. There are a few autism “highlights” that seem to me to be important:

    1. Autistic people tend to prefer the routine and familiar to the novel and unknown. Too much novelty may trigger inappropriate behavior (“meltdowns”) among autistic students who haven’t learned to control themselves.

    2. High-functioning autistic people love to talk about very boring topics, e.g., train schedules, mail truck routes, the minutiae of aircraft design. This is something I have to actively stop myself from doing. The fact that your student spent an hour of his and your time talking about himself is strong evidence that he is probably somewhere on the autistic spectrum.

    3. Autistic people frequently have a hard time detecting that an expression is a metaphor. “But I’m not pulling on your leg” is an extreme example of this obliviousness.

    4. Autistic people tend to engage in repetitive behaviors, such as rocking, pencil tapping. My opinion is that this should be gently discouraged.

    I suppose there is more, but that’s all I can think of right now.

  9. “I was blessed with a good sense of humor, and my lack of social awareness meant that failures and faux pas didn’t haunt me”

    that makes being autistic even sound desirable…
    (coming from one who is painfully aware of every social short-coming and zero sense of humor)

    I think your item 3) is what drove Young-a over the edge. It sounded like he had an obtuse understanding of the rules and couldn’t infer any of the meaning of them, such as implied responsibility.

    Eh, Tae-Young’s not a total loss. I think he’ll be okay. But, I think he could be much better with someone giving him tips and insight.

    Thanks for sharing, Cedric. I will do my best with him in the three weeks left…

  10. I think I never told you, my nephew, the 2nd son of my sister Marie is severely autistic.
    If he hears his name, he raises his hands quickly, if my sis says “ppo ppo” (kiss), he gives her a kiss on her hand, that’s all he could do when I saw him the two times (he was then 8 and 10 y.o.)

  11. I’ve only met severely autistic children once.

    I was volunteering at an organic farm, and one day they had a special day for autistic children. The children ran amuck in the fields, (a few of the plants suffered) stuffing their faces with strawberries, running in circles, making happy animal sounds. Most of the parents just hung by, watching and enjoying a few moments respite, while other more harried and controlling parents chased them down trying to put some order into their actions. (for whose benefit?)

    I can imagine it’s just an alternate world that can have its own rewards, as long as other loving people can put aside their own notions of what is proper or necessary. There’s so much more to communication than words, anyway.

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