Monday, March 7, 2011

Asperger's: Seeing the Silver Lining

The boys (Collin and Cooper) enjoyed lots of outdoor playtime with our version of tropical weather (40 degrees).

Did anyone catch last week's Parenthood episode? To recap: two parents inform their son he has Asperger's syndrome. They fumble the first talk, seek professional guidance, and then successfully communicate with their son on the second attempt. Well, life couldn't imitate art more than it did today.

A few weeks ago, we informed Caleb he had Asperger's. He treated our revelation with about as much enthusiasm as if we told him he was having a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. The last weeks, he's remained completely mum on our conversation. We've wondered what he's processed and how he's felt about our whole discussion. We've questioned whether we needed to say more.

Today, we visited Caleb's doctor. I spoke with her alone first, sharing about our conversation with Caleb. Then, Caleb went into her office alone for the remainder of the appointment. At the end, the doctor ushered me into her office. She explained, as Caleb fiddled with a tupperware full of lego pieces, that they talked about Asperger's. She recounted the conversation.

First, she asked Caleb what he remembered most about our prior conversation. She said he responded, "Asperger's kids don't lie." So true. Then, she and Caleb went through All Cats Have Asperger's. This time, she asked him to tell her all the cool things he does that are similar to the cat. He responded, "I have good hearing and smell." Bingo. Finally, she informed him he wasn't alone, and mentioned several other kids from his social skills class holding the same diagnosis.

By the time I saw Caleb, his spine seemed straighter, his eyes a little brighter, and his temperament almost upbeat. As Caleb looked on, she announced all the special qualities Asperger's children hold, and how different (in a good way) they are from their peers. Picking up on her cues, I listed some of Caleb's other special qualities: he is incredibly smart, holds passionate and deep interests, and has an amazing memory. He appeared busy, but I know my words were absorbed and (hopefully) treasured.

As the doctor continued to talk, I teared up just a bit. I appreciate her positive tone, and I know it helped Caleb, but deep down I was just a little sad for him. What was he hearing as the words came tumbling out? Did he feel alone? Did he feel different? Can I shield him from every hurt and challenge that will come his way?

Of course, I can't protect him from everything, but I know I can continue to reinforce the special, unique qualities that make Caleb the boy that's captured our hearts.

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