Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What We Know About Asperger's

 We attended neighbor friend Annika's baptism.  Love this shot of Cooper and Annika post-baptism!

Cooper celebrated his seventh birthday with a few classmates (seven friends because he's seven!) and brothers.  We held the party a few weeks early to accommodate Chris's work schedule.  

I haven't blogged about it as of late.  Perhaps that's because life is currently cruising along so peacefully.  What's to write about?  

But it's there.  It's always there.  It flashes up when a schedule changes or a social situation (or lack there of) arises.  It hits us during family trips or special moments.  It's him and therefore it's become a part of us.  It's become so engrained in our family dynamics that sometimes we don't even remember it's there.

It is Asperger's.

It was him before we knew the name; once we had a name we understood.  

Or did we?

If asked, I would say I accepted his diagnosis years ago.  I would claim to have found peace.  My words would ring true...most of the time.

But then there are moments.  Times when I question.

Is it really him?

Yes, yes.

The experts confirm.


Relatives and (even my husband) corroborate.

Of course.

My inner voice whispers.

But denial is not easily shaken.  It sticks like glue.

Last week, we sought the advice of an autism guru with 25 years experience in the field (plus her own personal experience as a mother of an adult Asperger's child).  Parents travel from states away just to gather her advice.  We came seeking greater understanding and direction.

We plopped down on a couch directly across from this autism wizard.  Impressive looking psychology books lined the wall; children's books filled the corner.  She peppered us with her vast amount of wisdom for 2 1/2 hours.  Our cup truly runneth over with our newfound knowledge.

Nearing the end of our allotted time, I felt the question that has plagued me for years bubble up in my throat.  Without thinking I blurted out, "Does he really have Asperger's?"

She paused and ruminated on her response.

No, she had never met our son, but she held in her hands reams of medical tests (years worth) confirming one singular diagnosis (and we had just spent hours bombarding her with our son's challenges and idiosyncrasies).  

She said, I could run more tests, but that would be expensive and you've already done so many.  Going off these tests (holding up a stack) and your statements, he has Asperger's.


She continued, Remember, a diagnosis is just knowledge.

Her words soaked in.

I repeated her statement in my head, "A diagnosis is just knowledge."

What knowledge does it provide?

I think she would say the diagnosis teaches us about him, like why he does certain things.  Perhaps we even have a slight glimpse into his thoughts and inner workings.

But as someone who's processed this diagnosis for years, I would say we know other things too about an Asperger's diagnosis:

1) A diagnosis of Asperger's does not have to be a scary thing.

The first time someone associated the "A" word with my son, I erupted into tears (the ugly, hysterical kind).  I was struggling with preconceived notions of a diagnosis and what that would mean for his life/our life.  Since then, we discovered a road paved with Autism may be tougher, but not bad and can still lead to a full, productive life for everyone.

2)  Although my son's Asperger's may never be "cured," it can be managed and improved.

He was born with challenges and deficiencies in some areas.  It takes work, but progress can be made and new habits can be formed (we've seen it!).  He can learn social skills and coping mechanisms, but not without the proper resources.  It's up to us to provide those services.

3)  What makes an Aspie challenging can make him special too.

He may not blend in socially, but his differences make him unique and special.  I love that he's not easily swayed by the latest fashion or the whims of his peers.  He loves what he loves and he's not the least bit shy about touting his preferences (even if they aren't shared by the majority of his classmates).  Perhaps we all could learn a thing or two from his bold individuality.

4)  Most people are kind to an Aspie.

One of the big fears with an Asperger's diagnosis is how will others respond.  Will they alienate him?  Will they be fearful?  Will they be kind?  In my experience, most people understand and are compassionate.

5)  My son is more than a diagnosis.

Although the diagnosis describes many aspects of my son, it doesn't define him.  He is a unique person with many gifts.  We are truly blessed to have him in our life.

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