reflections on Asperger’s

It’s strange, but since getting the diagnosis for Kiddo#1, I feel a lot calmer. Now that we have an actual problem, it’s solvable. When we didn’t, there were just ghosts and shadows and no way to combat them. Imagine if you were abducted by aliens and plopped down in the middle of a desolate country, and you’re not even sure what continent you’re on. Now I have a road map and a general sense of the lay of the land. Knowing that means we can navigate to someplace habitable.

It’s kind of strange, because when I talk to older relatives, they all offer me their sympathies. But when I talk to individuals around my age, they say, “You must feel relieved to have a diagnosis now.” A very strange disconnect that I realized when my father kept offering me sympathy, and I thought, “But why the sadness? Nothing is different today than yesterday.”

I think it’s a generational thing. My generation and beyond looks at neurological/emotional diagnosis as a part of some children’s lives and not something crippling, whereas my parents’ generation thinks of children with special needs as hobbled for life. Think about it: when the previous generation was growing up, where were all the “special needs” kids? What did they do with the kids who had emotional or mental problems? Was there mainstreaming? Or were kids labeled as “retarded” and “defective,” considered the family shame, and packed away into an institution where they’d never be seen again?

Yes, Kiddo#1 has a slightly higher hurdle to get over than the rest of us, but as far as diagnoses go, this isn’t that bad! He’s still who he is. He’s smart, and he’s got a lot of resources available. Our family has good medical insurance, and we live in an age where we can medicate for the anxiety, train, re-train, and where there are fields that will loan themselves to Kiddo#1’s special skills.

I mean, he probably can’t ever be a priest (for example) but when I thought about it, he’d make a great monk. (Consider: solitude, silence, a Rule of Life, introspection, commitment to work and to routine.) He won’t be a therapist, but he’ll be an awesome engineer just like his dad (and I could never be an awesome engineer, FWIW.) The goal now is to help him learn to relate to other people, but more than that to relate to himself. He’s going to contribute to society in terms of work, but more importantly we can teach him to contribute socially enough that he makes and keeps friendships and family ties. With the proper help, he can learn to be happy.

After my initial research, I’m seeing that Asperger’s isn’t a ball and chain. He’s got it tougher, but not impossible. We already know he’s a hard worker and sticks to a problem until it’s solved. Once we start showing him that there are new scripts he needs to learn (ie, this facial expression should be responded to in this fashion) he will probably devote himself to memorizing them. As the OASIS website says, kind of like the way a person can learn to play the piano.

I’m feeling a lot steadier now than on Tuesday, when I was really at the end of my rope. Things are looking like we can manage them at this point.

I want to thank everyone who offered advice and support and prayers. I really appreciate it.


  1. Pingback: Diagnosis: Asperger’s « Seven angels, three kids, one family

  2. g

    Wait till one day he just *does* something you had to help him practice and practice. That is just awesome when it happens!

  3. Nmissi

    I just stumbled across your blog this afternoon, and I wanted to come in and give you some encouragement. First of all- a lot of the problems your child has right now, will improve with age. He’s going to mature emotionally at an irregular and unpredictable schedule. For an aspie, that’s normal. But most importantly, he will mature; as he does so, he will likely figure out reasons for aping neurotypical behavior, coping mechanisms to help him get by in social settings. His brain works differently than most, but it works, and in some areas it probably works better or more efficiently than the neurotypical brain.

    AS can be a gift, not a curse; the very same things that make aspies so difficult in a social setting (the mono-focus, the intense attention to detail, the ability to ignore everything else when working on what fascinates you) are the things most needed to acquire new understandings, real knowledge, and discovery. The deficits can be turned into advantages in the right setting.

    If you’re interested in a good book on the subject, I can’t recommend “The OASIS guide to Asperger’s Syndrome,” highly enough. Their website is also full of great advice, and support resources.

    My sons are on the spectrum. The oldest (the aspie) just took his ACT at 13… and got a 28 composite. That’s good enough to get into most colleges. AS has its detriments, but that focus, that ability to block everything else out when you’re learning something interesting… you can’t put a price on that. And hey… last summer, he finally learned to tell time. We’re still working on hair-brushing.

  4. Adrienne

    I am an adult with ADD, which shares many of the same characteristics of Asperger’s. I consider my “disability” to be a blessing and wouldn’t want to be any other way. My opinion is that I’m normal and the rest of the world is nuts:)

  5. CricketB

    (Reading and responding in in order written, but starting more than a week behind.)

    I hear you on the diagnosis thing. The challenge is now defined.

    My grandmother was a teacher, and when my brother was diagnosed with dyslexia, she went on and on (and on, for years) about how kids in the 1970s were so lucky. When she was a teacher, she couldn’t do much for kids who just didn’t read well, even though she knew they were intelligent. (She knew a lot about “normal” kids, but thinking outside the box was not her strong point.)

    I love that you’re thinking of all the things he’ll do well at, as well as which things to avoid.