Aspie Digest - January 2, 2006
I haven't been writing a lot in the Aspie Digest lately, for several reasons. One, I think I have learned enough about AS to be comfortable dealing with my own son and making decisions. And two, we have finally found the therapist who really knows this stuff, so now I no longer feel like the pressure is on me to gather information on AS and share it with the school. As for my insurance problems with this therapist, I was told that I will get coverage starting January 1, 2006, so I'm crossing my fingers for that! We have already met with her once and she had some very good advice for me and LilProgrammer.
When LilProgrammer told her that he couldn't understand why he had to adjust to the neurotypical world, because he is happy enough as it is and doesn’t care what anybody thinks of him, the Dr. told him that, because of the way he is, people may misinterpret his words, and think of him as rude and disrespectful when he really isn't. As a result of their reaction, he may get hurt or get into trouble. That got LilProgrammer's attention. Another thing the Dr. told him was that, to help people understand him better, he can say things like, "I'm the kind of person who cannot look you in the eye when you're talking to me - that doesn’t mean I'm not listening", or in some cases just plain tell them that he has AS.
What I want to find out now is how to prepare for life in Junior High, and, later, high school. Do we need an IEP, and, if yes, what should be in it? What other things need to be in place to prevent the high school years from being a nighmare? LilProgrammer starts Junior High in about nine months, so we still have some time to figure it out.
Another thing I want to know is, how to teach LilProgrammer to reach out beyond his special interest area? Right now, he thinks that anything not having to do with his special interest (programming) is a waste of time, for example, socializing and having friends; playing sports and working out; spending more time than the absolute minimum on schoolwork and homework. This just kills me, not to mention gives his teachers a lot of gray hairs! So far I haven't been able to convince him otherwise. We have discussions about it which I enjoy, but LilProgrammer's logical reasoning is very good and he beats me every time.
One of our discussions
Mom to LilProgrammer: LP, there are taken-apart computers and electronic parts all over your room, I really need you to clean that up, actually you know what my dream is?
LP: That I play sports and have friends and get good grades and do not have Aspergers, but it's not going to happen.
Mom: No, actually I was going to say my dream is that one day, you put your main computer back in its case. (As I have already mentioned, LP gutted his computer about a month ago, because "it needed hardware changes". The very sight of various computer parts, connected by cables and spread liberally all over LP's desk, is freaking me out.) But now that you mention it, I wouldn't mind if you did all those things - sports, friends, grades, and then had, you know, a little Aspergers on the side.
LP: What's the point of having Aspergers if you cannot use it?
Mom: (cracks up. End of discussion. Once again, LP wins.)
I have started reading this book I have, "Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome", by Luke Jackson. Luke is in his late teens or early twenties, and lives in Australia. He wrote this book when he was thirteen years old. It is a really good description of what it's like to live with Aspergers from an inside point of view. Luke has a great sense of humor (somehow the therapists I have talked to are all puzzled that LilProgrammer has a good sense of humor - they think Aspies are not supposed to have it... apparently, it is possible!)
I strongly recommend this book, although this is the second time I started reading it. The first time around, I got through the first chapter, where it says that Luke has three brothers and three sisters, and most of the children in his family are special needs. So I said to myself, "This is all very nice, but this doesn't apply to my family at all", and put the book aside. My advice to you is to get past this first chapter and keep reading. It really does apply to our AS kids and it has very good descriptions of what it feels like. The book is very relevant to me and my family. There are chapters on bullying, rules of dating and other information very important to a teenage kid. I think Luke gives a lot of very good advice in this book.
Confessions of a Reformed Aspie
As I have mentioned before, AS is predominately hereditary. So, who does my son get it from? It is hard to tell, since AS was unheard of when we were kids, but I am guessing myself, and here's why.
As far as I can remember myself, I was a very strange kid. I could never fit in, and kids were picking on me, even in preschool. I didn't know how to hit back. That said, I always had one or two close friends. My favorite toys when I was little were construction sets. I remember being fascinated by Lego sets or Erector sets (whoever came up with this name for a kids' construction set, deserves to have his first name changed to Erector!) I loved sorting things and putting them in order by color, shape, etc. I was a picky eater, and was rarely hungry. My poor parents resorted to all kinds of dog and pony shows trying to shove some food down my throat, but it was not easy, seeing as most foods looked and tasted like slime and maggots to me! I was extremely clumsy as a kid, and never got picked for a team (in Luke's book, when he talks about his classmates saying to gym teacher, "Aw, Sir, do we have to have him?" - totally the story of my childhood!) In fact, I still hate team sports because I have extremely slow reaction.
I was incredibly socially inept. I can remember all kinds of totally inappropriate things coming out of my mouth when I was a kid, that make me die a little of shame and embarrassment each time they pop back into my mind. I had no idea how to socialize or make myself fit in. I remember wondering, even in college, how this whole society thing worked. When girls around me talked about relationships or friendships, I listened in awe and literally couldn't understand a word. It's like they were speaking in a foreign language. It was just my luck to end up in a dorm room with a group of incredibly social girls (not in the sense that they were popular - they weren't; but in the sense that they had an almost physical need to socialize with each other 100% of the time). Needless to say, we didn't get along very well. I was only able to completely crack the social code after my children were born. Apparently, raising a small human and being around him 24x7, forces you to understand the way he interacts. It’s like people learning foreign languages through immersion.
As long as I can remember, I had intense special interests, but they changed all the time. My poor Mom was going crazy. She was forever trying to make me not be so insane about my special interests, but never had any luck. I read a lot of books, and every once in a while I'd get a crush on a book character and talk about nothing else for months. That was in preschool and first few years of school. The amazing thing is, I sometimes managed to get my (very neurotypical I have to say) friends to follow my special interests with me. Once in 3rd grade, I read a book that fascinated me so much, I decided to direct a play based on the book. I got my two best friends heavily involved, and we worked on our "theater" for almost a year. Nothing came out of it - obviously, I was no play director!
Then suddenly, I lost interest in the book completely, and became interested in cats. My same two friends and I formed a cat club. One of us had a female cat and our plan was to breed kittens. We were going to get male cats off the street, and have our female cat do the deed with them. (Of course, none of us really knew what was supposed to occur, other than we were supposed to get kittens as the end result!) Our club had its own songs that we wrote (all about cats and romantic cat love!), an anthem, a cat roster, and all that good stuff. We actually managed to catch a couple stray cats on the street, confirm that the cats were indeed male, and try to fix them up with our female kitty (she was NOT happy). We never did produce any kittens. Eventually, the kitty, probably on her last nerve, ran away and was never found. My friend's Mom got him a male cat instead, that was promptly neutered - so much for our breeding plans! I cannot believe it myself, but our cat club lasted for three years. Then my friends caught the early puberty train, lost interest in catching cats, and the whole thing broke up.
Then I was interested in politics. Then for a year or two, I was interested in Indian culture. When I was twelve, I made my first money at a temp job delivering telegrams. I used it to buy an LP that was made in India and had about a dozen songs from an Indian movie I'd never seen. With deep apologies to my readers who enjoy Indian music, I have to tell you that, in retrospect, the LP sounded like a cat being strung by its balls. I loved it madly, and played it at least five times a day. My poor, poor parents.
Then I had a series of crushes on guys from school, camp, etc. The guys had one thing in common, they were all entirely out of my league. Looking back, I realize that my crushes also had a special interest flavor to them. Poor, poor guys.
Then I went to college, then to work, got married, had kids, and before I knew it, I was boringly normal. Or was I? My closest family still tells me that I tend to make rude remarks and I should watch what I say to people. For the longest time, I thought they were making stuff up, because people like me and I have a reputation of being a nice person and I have lots of friends. But now I wonder. What if they'e right after all, and I am still the socially inept Aspie that manages to get along by my charming good looks or whatever? Not sure. Maybe I could use a lil therapy myself!
I still can get intensely involved in something, as indicated by this blog. I fondly remember the time when I had an interest in my work and could spend hours reading literature on the subject, and trying all different ways of coding. That really helped with my professional growth. Too bad these days are over. And, of course, I've been hugely interested in parenting ever since my first child was born. I think this really helped me succeed as a parent (if you can call this success, hehe) because I had no experience with children whatsoever, and it would have been extremely hard for me to learn the ropes if I didn’t have the intense interest in the subject. So, you probably can say that I have, as I said to my son LP, "a little Aspergers on the side" and it works pretty well. Add to that the fact that I understand my own son (and a lot of my coworkers in IT!) very well due to being of the same mold myself - and you will arrive at the same conclusion that I did. AS is in no way, shape or form a disability. It is instead a special frame of mind, and it can be fun if you know how to adjust to living with it.
I hope that my son manages to adjust, as well.