Wednesday, May 28, 2008
This has been an interesting week. To say the least. I mentioned, a couple of posts ago, that I have been potty training my son and that, at 4 1/2, he is a bit late in his training. I love my son, more than words can say, but I have not been blind to the fact that he hasn't been on the same track developmentally as most kids his age. I have brought it up, from time-to-time, with his pediatrician and was usually told that I was "over-comparing" him to other kids. I knew better than to accept that from the pediatrician, but I let it lie for awhile. I didn't want to deal with the elephant in the room that most parents don't want to deal with. Autism. This word carries so much weight these days. We hear about it a lot. We hear that the numbers are on the rise and we hear about celebrities like Jenny McCarthy that they too have kids with Autism. God bless Jenny McCarthy. At first I denied that my son could have Autism because he seemed to function so much better than the stereotypical Autistic child. I remember watching "Rainman" and thinking the sort of idiot-savant that Dustin Hoffman played was what Autism was all about. That can't be my son I thought, my son hugs me, he tells me he loves me. He comes running to me when I come home from the store with a loud "Mom!" and a big hug. How could this child have Autism? And then a funny thing happened. I started reading about it and I discovered a neurological disorder on the Autism spectrum called Asperger's Syndrome. And an even funnier thing happened. I realized that not only does my son have virtually all the criteria that would garner him a diagnosis as having Asperger's, I do as well. I've always felt like a square-peg in a round-hole world, but I always found things to blame it on. I was adopted. I went to 11 different schools from kindergarten through 12 grade. Of course I was socially awkward. But the thing is, even in a safe environment, away from social situations that can leave me in a horrible state of anxiety, I'm still not what you might think of as normal. I look normal. I can pass for normal. I can hold a job and go to parent-teacher conferences relatively well. But if you and I were having a face to face conversation, I would have to force myself to look into your eyes. I do this because it's what I've come to believe is expected of me in social situations but I don't "get" why I should do it. My son is the same way. When I go to a party with my husband I really get stressed out. I've never been able to read people very well. I tend to run on conversationally and have a one track mind that is staggering in it's focus. I cannot go-with-the-flow conversationally because my mind will stay on whatever track I started on and will not shift gears unless I make a conscious effort to do so. I tend to be blunt but think of myself as "honest." I don't mean to hurt other people's feelings but since I am not naturally tactful I do sometimes. I don't like to be touched (which drives my husband crazy) and can't stand loud noises of any kind. If I'm in a room full of people I will go into sensory overload and have to leave to spend time by myself. I usually stay up late every night just to be alone. I could go on and on but I think I would bore you. The point of all this is that despite my personal diagnosis of Asperger's, I've managed to do okay. I have been with my husband for 13 years despite my social retardation. Most people would never, ever, dream that I suffer from a form of Autism. Thank goodness. In a weird way I'm glad I have Asperger's. I would prefer that my son didn't have it, but since he does I think I am uniquely qualified to help him navigate through a world he won't understand. I can't give him enlightenment, but I can give him a few coping mechanisms. I would prefer that I didn't have this genetic mutation to pass on to my child (Asperger's generally runs in families and often the adult sufferer will be diagnosed at the same time as the child) but I can't help what has already happened. The one thing that gives me hope is now I know why I am the way I am. I now know why I have a hard time relating to people and prefer the companionship I find among the blogging community. I don't need to read facial expressions here. All I have to do is read the words on a page and I can do that. I can also stand as an example to my son. I can say to him, I graduated college. I got married and had kids. I know how to love even if I don't know how to express it. I know what it is to be you, and you're going to be just fine..... For more information on Asperger's Syndrome, THIS is an excellent place to start.