Last May my family got the shock of our lives. Our son’s therapist told us she thought he had Asperger’s Disorder (aka High Functioning Autism). As soon as she suggested it, my mind started making the connections. How in the world did I miss that one for so long? Hundreds of post-graduate training for a specialty in treating Autism and I didn’t see it coming. We had mistaken his silent compliance as an easy-going, quiet nature. I started looking at old photos and discovered something. Our son hated being touched. He accepted hugs from family members without protest, but the look on his face said, “Oh God, please make it stop!”. He didn’t suddenly acquire Asperger’s at age 16. He was born with it. Oh dear. What were we going to do? I knew the challenges faced by young adults on the spectrum. Our previously active, happy, successful kid was depressed and failing at nearly everything he tried.We needed to act quickly. While my husband struggled to understand the daily nuances of parenting Asperger’s-style, I sprung into action. I became the proverbial “momma bear”, pushing hard on public mental health services and the school’s special education services. We hired a therapist from my old agency to work with our family.
The second wave hit when we remembered that Asperger’s is hereditary. We had long suspected a few of my family members were on the spectrum, so it was an easy leap to acknowledge that our son received his traits from me. Then the light bulbs started coming on in my mind. I never did learn to maintain socially acceptable eye contact. I was a clueless weird kid, prone to emotional outbursts. I liked to follow the rules, too. I knew I should care that the other kids laughed at me, but I didn’t. I just shrugged it off and made friends with the other outcasts. I had Asperger’s, too. But I was smart, too. I watched and listened, quickly learning how to disguise myself as NT (neuro-typical, “normal”). Unfortunately, that made my rare Asperger’s moments all the more humiliating as they stood out like bleach stains on black fabric. Sometimes if I’m tired or simply taking it easy, I fail to respond to questions or comments. Worse yet, I say things too frankly or make jokes that backfire. I’ve learned it’s better not to speak unless it’s is well-planned.
So yes, I am a therapist with Asperger’s. We have 2 children who also have Asperger’s. I expect our new granddaughter will be diagnosed with Asperger’s, too. Because online communication doesn’t require tone of voice or facial expressions, you might not ever know this about me. So why “come out”? I learned that 1 in 100 children are on the spectrum. Recently I heard this might be even closer to 1 in 50. With so many connections online, I’m sure there are those who will read this post who are also on the spectrum. I learned how to fit into society on my own. It was like learning a foreign language and I was good at that. NT will never be my native language. I will garble a phrase now and then.
If you are reading this and think you or someone you know might have traits of Autism or Asperger’s. You can get help. You can learn to fit in better and accept the amazing uniqueness that is you.
You are not alone. Success and satisfaction are possible.