19 April 2010

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Life with an Aspie

I recently learned that people with Aspergers Syndrome often refer to themselves as Aspies.  While having Aspergers can often make life more challenging, it is, at least, one of the lesser of the disorders on the Autism spectrum.  Some even say it is not a disability, but rather something that makes people special in a great way.

I have to agree with this classification.  Yes, it can be very hard to be the parent of an Aspie.  Knowing your child doesn't really have any close friends, knowing that each day at school can be lonely and a constant battle to keep his emotions in check might be as stressful for the mom as it is for the child.  We want our kids to be happy all the time.

But, the good thing about Aspies, many times, is that they are not unhappy in their less-than-social circumstances.  For instance, my Aspie son thinks of himself as quite popular at school.  He knows that kids think he is a nice guy, so he assumes this makes him popular.

My Aspie is really bright.  This works for him in more than one way.  First of all, he does very well in school.  This is great because it is one less thing for him to worry about.  He often gets overwhelmed by the amount of homework he has, but the work itself is usually not a problem for him.

He is also absentminded, though.  Every since he was 3 and started to read, I've called him my absentminded professor.  I didn't know then that he had Aspergers, but I knew he was crazy smart and more than a little spacey! Zack can get 100% on a history test, but cannot remember to put the ice cream back in the freezer after he scoops some into his bowl.

The other thing that being bright helps my Aspie with is his social skills.  While being appropriately social does not come naturally to him, he can learn social skills.  When I notice a situation that he doesn't handle quite right, like when he used to walk up to another child and start right into a fact about reptiles, I take the opportunity to model the correct behavior for him.  He can then internalize the behavior and act appropriately next time.  This process has helped my Aspie son fit in at school and helped make him a happier kid.

My Aspie has learned so much from the modelling that when tested, he can answer the questions in a way that makes it difficult to accurately diagnose him.

I highly recommend that parents of Aspie kids work gently, but hard with their kids to help them be more comfortable in the "real world."  I think our son will be more equipped for his future because of all the work he's done to learn the social skills.