Saturday, October 23, 2010

My Aspie Angel

I picked up the expression "Aspie Angel" from an Autism/Asperger's support group I joined. People with Asperger's Syndrome are referred to as Aspie's. My son, Bill, has Asperger's Syndrome. He is beautiful, sweet and brilliant. Everyone adores him. He is not like other kids - normal kids, that are referred to as Neuro Typical or NT. He is not NT. He is unique. True, all children are unique and special but a child with Asperger's is not only that but they see the entire world as a unique place and through their unique eyes. Asperger's Syndrome is on the Autistic Spectrum but carries it's own special markers.
Recently, I attended a conference with Temple Grandin, a brilliant inventor and author with Autism/Asperger's that was recently featured in an HBO film and Tony Attwood, the leading expert in Asperger's Syndrome. There were over 1400 people in attendance - parents, teachers, mental health professionals and adult Aspies. It was an emotional journey. I found myself interviewing an adult Aspie and telling him my fears of what lies ahead for my son. I also spoke to a woman with a 3 year old boy that she feared had Autism. I told that between about 2 1/2 and 6 were the worst times for us and that things would get better. I told her how well Bill was doing now but that the road was very hard and that she could do it if I did. I felt strange doling out advice but I felt I had too.
There were parents with children older than my son and they shared their experiences. I felt hope in myself.
While Temple Grandin was finishing up her speech, I snuck out so I could be in line for her to sign her book. Standing at one of the book dealers I spotted a white haired man giving autographs. It was Tony Attwood. The man I drove 6 hours to see. He was autographing a book for the book dealer. I stood next to him and thanked him for being there. I told him how far I came and he commented he came all the way from Australia to be there. I thanked him. I asked him if he had time to sign books later. He said he didn't know but would sign one for me. I pulled my book out of my backpack and he signed it. As I handed him the book I started to cry. I told him that I thought he wrote his book, "The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome", about my son. He was very gracious.
I didn't think my son was classic Autistic as he was first diagnosed. Some things didn't fit in to that diagnosis. Yes, he was high functioning but not exactly. Something was different about him. Something about his socializing, speaking and moving was not all autism. Dr. Attwood's book described Bill exactly - as unique and as unique as everyone with Asperger's Syndrome is.
Temple Grandin said, "If it wasn't for people like me, all you socialites would still be sitting around in caves talking to each other." To love an Aspie is to get that quote. In the opinion Ms. Grandin and Dr. Attwood there would be no silicone valley, inventors, engineers, spelling bee winners, actors, directors, animators or geeks without the wonderful world of Aspergers. Maybe not true for all but Dr. Attwood referred to the "Antique's Roadshow" as "spot the Aspie." For those of us that love and know an Aspie those comments are funny. The obsession with a subject, attention to detail and awkward social skills fit many we know in those professions. You can giggle out loud now, if you want.
Dr. Attwood also said there was cure for Autism! Put the person with Autism or Asperger's in their room and close the door. When they are in their room alone they do not have Autism! Once again, feel free to giggle, if you understand.
People ask me when I knew something was "wrong" with Bill. I never thought it was vaccines, birth issues, etc. I have a video of him in an exersaucer at 6 months old just bouncing and bouncing for an hour straight. Could have been then. When he didn't talk at 18 months, 20 months, 24 months or 2 1/2 years old. Could have been then too. His diagnosis was when he was almost 5. It was heartbreaking. I refused to give up on him. When was 3 or 4 and was just so terrible I didn't want to look at him - I did not want to give up. He was beautiful, sweet and smart. I knew he was really in there somewhere.
BUT now I have a renewed sense of hope from this conference. I learned that Aspies are probably the ones that are okay and the rest of us NTs just have to catch up. Maybe they are the next step in our evolution. In a world that has replaced real social lives with social networking. Maybe that is true.
Bill is 6 1/2. He is in 1st grade and the sky is the limit. If I read this to him, he would ask what the limit of the sky is. That is why I love him.


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