Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
My eldest son is 32. He has very mild Asbergers. In fact when he was
young people didn’t even call it Asbergers. He’s sort of like the genius
programmer in the new movie about Facebook. But instead of talking a
mile a minute, David takes a long time to decide what he wants to say,
avoids a lot of eye contact, and is as uncomfortable with people as he
is happy with computers. He’s decided he wants to become an M.D (so
I can say “My son the doctor!”) and then go into medical research. His
test scores were through the roof (top 1% of current applicants) but
his undergrad GPA was damaged seriously by his first year. He later
took a few years off, then finished his BA (3.5 GPA at University of
Chicago, not chopped liver), and has been a computer programmer
ever since. He’s just gotten invited to interviews at two of his top
schools. But I am afraid he’ll freeze up and they won’t take him. How
can I boost his confidence?

Dear Worried:
First of all, start believing in him. If you communicate your fears
instead of your pride, you’ll undercut his self-confidence, which is
probably, and understandably, already fragile. Anyone who goes
through life being “different,” even in “easier than Asbergers” ways
like being extra short, tall, heftier, smarter, or clumsier, is very aware
of their own self-perceived flaws, and the effect those traits have on
others. Instead of reinforcing nervous tension, help him get ready.


Start with answers to predictable questions. Write them out and
rehearse them with him. Low GPA: I coasted through high school and
needed to learn study habits. People skills: I’m more comfortable with
technology, and my goal is research. Older than average: I’ve lived in
the world of working adults and have learned about real life. Why this
school: The excellence of the faculty, or student teacher ratio, or
because I’ve always wanted to live in City X. If he’s on medication,
make sure he doesn’t do anything to alter his body chemistry. Tell him                                to go for a brisk walk, listen to inspirational music, have a backup
interview outfit in case he spills anything, arrive early, and meditate
for 10 minutes before he goes in. A good hello, firm handshake, and a
good-bye line of I really hope you’ll accept me into your school. should
all help him navigate these rapids.