My son M is 13-years old and he has Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). I am not an expert on AS, but I am an expert on my son. I don’t often share with others that my son has AS. I suppose I’m trying to protect him from stigma and avoid having him labeled by others, which is quite a challenge since anyone who spends a moderate amount of time with him can easily see that he is a bit quirky (to say the least). He speaks quite loudly, has difficulty maintaining eye contact, talks about his favorite things to the point it’s almost a monologue (or he doesn’t talk at all), lacks a filter… I could go on and on. But I guess that’s what this blog is for.
This blog will be a place where I would like to share my experiences as his mom, my beliefs, frustrations, expectations, hopes and dreams, etc. First a quick background…
M was lucky enough to spend his elementary school years at a GATE (gifted and talented education) school, where most of the kids seemed a little odd anyway. There he was able to be himself. He still didn’t make friends like you and I would think friends would be: coming over to play, getting invited to parties, etc. This made me sad, but then again he didn’t seem to care so I didn’t make a big deal out of it. If he was invited, we went.
Before he was diagnosed with Aspergers in 3rd grade, they thought he might have ADD (2nd grade). They were quick to label kids with ADD/ADHD back then so they thought to just throw him in the same group. I disagreed with them, rejected the Ritalin, and eventually got a second opinion. While this dx is neither more nor less favorable, I felt it was more fitting than attention deficit disorder.
He made the biggest steps in 5th grade, when he decided to join band, choir, and intramural basketball. (He had already been in chess club since 3rd grade.) I think having found success in chess club boosted his self-esteem or at the very least it made him less shy to try new things. That’s my theory anyway.
So now fast-forward to 8th grade. (I know I skipped a lot.) He still plays chess in tournaments (even though there’s no club at school), he’s still in band (and will continue in high school), and he joined a video game club (LOL). His three loves: chess, band, and video games. I love that he’s involved in extra curricular activities.
Some family and friends have wondered why I would “do that” to my son… like it’s such a bad thing to play chess and be in band. It might be “less” to be proud of in their eyes of because it’s not sports, but not in mine. (Btw, we tried T-ball and soccer… it didn’t take.) To me it’s such a huge deal to let him be where he feels the most comfortable… To find his place. I feel this is why, as a result, he is doing better with interacting with people, has better eye contact, is better able to share his accomplishments, etc.
Aspergers Syndrome is part of the autism spectrum. Some people might call it “high-functioning autism” but I believe that’s another dx of its own. These are the DSM IV criteria for Aspergers:
Diagnostic Criteria For 299.80 Asperger’s Disorder
A. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
<LI>marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction <LI>failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level <LI>a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g. by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people) <LI>lack of social or emotional reciprocity
B. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
<LI>encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus <LI>apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals <LI>stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements) <LI>persistent preoccupation with parts of objects
C. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning
D. There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years)
E. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood
F. Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia
Do you know anyone with Aspergers?