Let me start by telling you why I’ve started this blog. Basically, I’m sick and tired of reading (what I think) is bad advice on blogs and forums regarding children and teens with Asperger’s Syndrome and ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders). This blog is about my son, our struggles with him and the AMAZING success we have found. I will try to explain as much as I can but I don’t want this to turn into a book. So please ask a question if you have one. I’m very good about getting back to people so check back for a reply or subscribe to the blog. It will take me some time to get from where we started to where we are today since he is now since he’s now 14. So for this first post, let me give you a brief summary.
For the sake of this blog I’m going to call him Moose. He HATES that nickname but it’s a joke in our house. So we’ll just go with that.
Moose was diagnosed the day after he turned 4. He had been having a TERRIBLE time in pre school. Ugh. Terrible. I’ll go into more details in a later post. So he was diagnosed. He was non verbal except for echolalia (would repeat things he heard on TV), little to no eye contact, ran around in circles in class, had no concept of personal space and could be aggressive at times. All I wanted was to be able to have a conversation with my child.
Fast forward to last night June 23rd, 2010. My son graduated 8th grade. Mainstreamed since kindergarten. Graduated at the top of his class, made honor roll every single marking period all through middle school. Although he is classified, he gets NO help. He’s only classified in case he needs any help in high school, the classification is already in place. Every teacher (even the really mean ones) adore him and he has a great group of friends. He won an award given by our county that goes to the student who shows the most humanitarian efforts and is the most caring and compassionate student. He is an avid reader and creative writer. Had a short story published at the age of 10. Is a budding artist having his work chosen to be displayed in the district wide art show 5 years in a row. We were once told that he may never write properly and may need a word processor in the classroom.
He has more than exceed all of our expectations. And this is WHY I think that is. We NEVER expected him not to. I read all these articles and advice and they say to set expectations low and set small goals and remember that “these are special kids”. Yeah, they’re special because these kids are a lot smarter than most of us!! It’s just locked in there and we need to find a way to unlock it. Just because they have ASD or Asperger’s doesn’t mean that they can’t do something. It just means that maybe they have to find another way of doing it. Just like my son used to have issues with word problems. I knew that he was paying to much attention to sentences that had nothing to do with the word problem. So I had to find a way to explain the problem to him to he’d understand it. Then I had to find a way to teach him how to weed out and block out those unimportant sentences so he could solve the problems himself in school when I couldn’t be there to help him.
Food. Ugh food has always been an issue with him. At one point he only ate pizza crust and white rice. I got to a point when I said enough is enough. He needs some protein. I tried all different ways to get protein in him. I knew he only liked crunchy things (that didn’t explain the rice), but I made him my version of chicken nuggets and I got him to eat them. It was a slow progression but he now eats grilled chicken breast. Along with guacamole, pizza, Japanese food, salad and an array of other foods. I know he’ll never eat red meat, I know he’ll never mix foods on a plate and I know he’ll never eat lots of things we eat. But the point is that I didn’t settle for pizza crust and white rice.
He’s become more and more social over the years. That’s been a slow process and we have been careful not push too much just not to make him self conscious. He’s done well with just one or two friends but this year he branched out. He has become close with several kids. He has a group he hangs out with at school and has a buddy he hangs out with at our house and at the mall. I never thought he’s be the “hang out at the mall” type.
I do realize and understand that he DOES have Asperger’s. And when I see him “stim” I sometimes either remind him to stop or I just leave him alone because he’s doing it in the privacy of his room not bothering anyone and I know it’s soothing for him. It’s also funny how self aware he is. Like we were about the paint the living room and I asked if he liked the color and he said “I’m sure I’ll like it when it’s done but you know I don’t do well with change.” And then of course he loved it when it was done.
But this child who was once so severe now SHOCKS people when they find out he has Asperger’s Syndrome. They simply cannot believe it. I don’t hide it. It’s not something I’m ashamed of and I don’t him to be ashamed either. It’s his choice if he wants to tell people or not though. He’s 14 and that’s tough enough without your friends labeling you Autistic. So I let him make that decision. I do talk to him about it a lot. I explain to him what he was like as a child and how we got where we are. I think it’s very important for him to know. I think it’s for him to understand and appreciate how far he’s come so he doesn’t throw it all away someday.
He is truly an amazing success story. I don’t want to say that he has beaten Asperger’s, but he’s come pretty damned close.
My purpose is to let parents know that there is so much hope for kids out there. I don’t think that all the advice out there is the best. I don’t think that expecting less from these kids is the solution…I think it’s a BIG problem. By all means nurture your children but, and I hate to put it so bluntly, but treat someone like a moron and they’ll act like a moron. Know what I mean? Probably not the best way to put it but I’m from Jersey. We like to keep things simple.
Ok, so that’s my summary. I’ll write more details in later posts. I guess my next one will be about when he was diagnosed and the school we sent him to.
Please ask any questions you may have.