Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Aspie: Not Wrong, Just Different

I'm ready to start talking about Asperger's Syndrome on my blog. All the people I thought would reject us know about it now, and lo and behold, we are not rejected. There have been a few odd interactions, like James not being invited to something he would previously have been invited to, and the occasional speech meant to convince us there is nothing "wrong" with him, but overall, the reception has been good.

I suppose we have the increase in autism diagnoses to thank for that. When we say James has Asperger's Syndrome, instead of hearing, "That's a fake condition you're using to make excuses for bad parenting," we hear, "Oh, yes. My cousin's uncle's next door neighbor's son has that, too."

The most important point I want to make about Asperger's Syndrome is that I agree that there's nothing "wrong" with James. There is certainly something different about James, and it would be a gross disservice to him for his parents to pretend that he does not see the world completely differently than the average joe. He does. And because he does, we must learn to communicate with him in ways he understands, and we must learn to help him communicate effectively with average joes.

We also have the freedom to help him cope with the world. Sometimes that means helping him figure out and do what's considered culturally normal, and sometimes that means giving him special consideration and accommodation. We do these things for him because he sees and responds to life differently. But there is certainly nothing wrong with him.

The other day, James announced, "Hey, Mom. Guess what? I'm going to be the richest man in the world."

"You are?" I replied, waiting for his explanation.

"Yep," said James. "Bill Gates has Asperger's, and he got rich. So can I."

We are, of course, teaching our kids that getting rich isn't the best life goal to be had, and as far as I know, Bill Gates has not been diagnosed with Asperger's, even though he seems to exhibit many of its symptoms. But it was wonderful to see that James grasped the concept that having Asperger's Syndrome could increase, rather than hinder, his personal success in life.

It is speculated, although not confirmed with certainty, that some of the world's greatest thinkers, innovators, and artists have had Asperger's Syndrome. They include a long list of famous personalities: Ludwig van Beethoven, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, Vincent van Gogh, Emily Dickinson, Henry Ford, Mark Twain, Alfred Hitchcock, H. P. Lovecraft, Andy Warhol, Charles Schulz, Bill Gates, and Michael Jackson. (On the humorous side, fictional characters dubbed as Asperger's are Bert of "Bert and Ernie" Sesame Street fame, Lisa Simpson from The Simpsons, Mr. Spock from Star Trek, and the United Kingdom's Mr. Bean.) Suffice it to say, from a historical perspective, your child with Asperger's Syndrome is in outstanding company.

~William Stillman, The Everything Parent's Guide to Children with Asperger's Syndrome, Adams Media, Avon, MA, p. 24.

By the way, I would add Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory to that fictional characters list. Jeff and I don't watch that show just because it's funny. We also watch it because it's therapeutic. We especially relate to this and this.

I don't plan to write a lot here about the facts of Asperger's. I don't really know that much, although I am learning steadily. But I do want to talk about what it's like to have an Aspie in the family, and for my own process, I needed to begin with an introductory post.

So there you have it. We have an Aspie in our family. And he is a unique, lovable, delightful treasure.