My oldest son has Asperger Syndrome and as a parent, watching him struggle everyday in learning to cope with the real world, makes it difficult for me to understand why this condition is not considered autism. From a young age, it was apparent there was something different about him. He liked to keep to himself, didn’t talk or mumbled when he did, had violent outbursts and a tendency even when punished would still do what he wanted to. The one pride and joy in his life was his Game Boy and it was common for him to stay up late at night (2 or 3 AM) and play by the light of a flashlight.
The warning signs were all there and unfortunately because Asperger’s is considered a borderline case of autism, the counselors and teachers were unable to alert us there was something wrong with our son. From his behavior, he was categorized as being just authority defiant and female teachers saw him at his worst. Although highly intelligent and able to do the work at home, he would ignore the teachers and not respond when asked questions. Unfortunately there were too few male teachers to ensure his elementary school years wouldn’t be rocky.
His temper tantrums were being triggered by a frustration with being unable to express himself and one day came to a head when he and his younger sister was in a crosswalk, racing to see who could get to the other side first. Being slower but stronger, he grabbed her hair and threw her to the ground then proceeded to punch and kick her. She was 10 and half his size at the time. My son was 12 and much heavier. Fortunately two adults saw this and pulled him off of her. After this, we realized something had to be done.
When he started to see a child psychologist, I was skeptical that just talking would do anything to improve the situation. Much to my surprise, the doctor was able to coax my son out of his “shell” and start to express his feelings. This was when the term “Asperger’s Syndrome” was first mentioned to me. Although it is a mild form of autism, I can assure any reader that the effects are just as noticeable.
From time to time my son will “phase out” when people are talking to him and retreat to his own little world. When he comes back, anything that was told to him, is not remembered. He is still very shy and withdrawn, preferring to spend time in his room either watching TV or playing his Nintendo DS or using his computer. At 20 he as friends but never goes out. He knows young women (who like him because unlike most guys, he will listen to them) but never takes them out on dates. His life is full of routines such as putting his towel in a certain place or brushing his teeth a certain way.
For someone who doesn’t know his condition, I’m sure they would flag him as being eccentric or a flake. He’s in the process of getting a drivers license and I have to remind him about rules of the road and build good habits like checking to see if a lane is clear before changing lanes. Unless these processes become habit, the odds are he won’t remember.
So will be be a success? We sincerely hope so and continue to work with him on a daily basis to try and teach him things that normal people usually figure out on their own.