Raising a child with Asperger’s Syndrom

Welcome to the schizophrenic world of an Asperger’s Syndrom mother, where every day is spent on the roller-coaster of “he will never function in society” to “everything will work out fine” and back down.

In recent years, ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder, which includes Autism, Asperger’s and PDD-NOS) awareness has risen, but the range of impairment under this acronym varies a lot from child to child. This big umbrella diagnosis encompasses children from the non-verbal, aggressive, severely handicapped to the suicidal, clumsy, shy kids. Practically every ASD case has to be viewed as an individual combination of traits, though there are similarities: obsessive-compulsive behaviour, social awkwardness, transition issues, anxiety or raging temper-tantrums – often not all at once, but in various combination.

Asperger’s is often seen as “the Geek Syndrom” and claims are made – postmortem – that many famous people were Aspies: Mozart, Kafka, Nietzsche, Van Gogh, Newton, Einstein!? Because of this widely accepted view of Asperger’s as an indication of above-average intelligence, a confession of the diagnosis is often followed by the – expressed or implied – question of “So what’s his/her special talent?”.

Many parents are baffled, even embarrassed by this question. Not every Aspie is a genius and not every genius is an Aspie. (There are no studies out, but many of the spelling and geography bee contestants are clearly on the spectrum, but that does NOT mean only autistic minds can achieve highly specialized memory skills).

It seems that adults/parents are more willing to forgive deficits in social behavior, if there is another talent, especially if it is academic. This, however, is not the case for children. They do, mostly, not forgive aberrance of the norm – be it a deficit or a special talent – and the inability to read social clues and/or unwillingness to participate in the game that is school yard politics, marks most ASD children as outcasts.

An Asperger child is often a loner, by himself in the corner of the playground – which is fine as long as they want to be. The parental heart-break starts when you watch your child desperately trying to make a connection, only to be rejected or get ridiculed. Worst are the moments when you realize that the attention other children were paying to your child and which you were so happy to hear about, turn out to be mean, ridiculing and disingenious, but your child was not able to identify the difference. Reading social clues, something that comes natural to most of us, is hard (sometimes I even think impossible) to teach and requires patience of all – child, parent and possible friend.

It is hard to gauge as a parent how much you should help your child to form these bonds. Should you make playdates at your house desirable with the best toys, the greatest foods and the funniest entertainment? Or is that bribery? And most importantly, will the other child see through all this and come for the gimmicks, but ignore you child just the same outside of your home?

Blessed are those who have a sibling than can lead and defend or who find a friend that is willing to accept quirkiness.

Coming up in the next blogs (so please subscribe to this blog): Family life & ASD, biomed, transition issues, special diets, IEPs …and how to find some humor in it all!?

Introduction to Asperger's Sydrome, help and support by a teacher and mother of 2

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