So I have been posting blogs about my childhood experiences. Some of the content may be difficult to read, and it does cost me emotionally to write it.
However, there really IS a point to all this.
I was a child with Asperger’s Syndrome before it was recognized by anyone. It was first mentioned in a medical paper by English psychiatrist Lorna Wing in 1981. It did not enter formal medical journals until a decade later. So those of us Aspie-brain kids were misdiagnosed, ignored, punished, wrongfully medicated, and existing on the fringe of normal childhood. And with my personal experience, I never wanted to be a parent. I did not like to hold babies because I knew something was wrong with me. I did not like to babysit because I felt sorry for children in general.
When I was 29, my son Connor was born. He was born 11 months to the day that my grandfather died. He was and is so beautiful to me. He has this half-smile thing he has always done. It grabs your heart. He was born getting the joke. And yet at 4, this gorgeous little boy was non-verbal, not able to follow rules at daycare, not connecting with people and peers.
He connected with our cat. He connected with me. He connected with his father, but his father was a teacher and not home a lot. The academy daycare refused to take him any longer. They just repeatedly told me something is wrong. My mother also went off on rage-filled tangents that I needed to do something as a parent.
Here is what I did:
- Spent $600/month on a speech therapist
- Bought Hooked on Phonics
- Took him to five different pediatricians and specialists – one of whom wanted to put him on a heart medication not approved by the FDA for people under 18. One of whom “Tried” him on Ritalin. He took the first dose and kicked me in the chest with both feet, knocking the wind out of me. No more of that. I did not want to pursue medication. I wanted my son to be himself and learn to deal with communication, and actions, and feelings.
- Spent hours watching Baby Einstein DVD’s with him.
- Read to him every day and night.
- Took him to a chiropractor who specialized in Special Needs Children. She is our friend and doctor to this day.
- Got him tested repeatedly for various cognitive skills – because he ROCKED at puzzles and read his Garfield Dictionary. He was also incredibly self- sufficient. He would not ask for things, he would just go get them.
- Review and assess all information about vaccines.
- Watch and read every horrible video and article sent to me by my mother on how I had ruined my child.
Maybe it was my fault.
But one afternoon, the volcano just erupted.
I was bringing him home from a doctor’s appointment during which I had stormed out angrily after screaming that my child was not their guinea pig. This was followed by a list of expletives involving Nazi experiments and payoffs from drug companies. I snapped.
I pulled over a block away from home, looked at my stupid green minivan littered with books and articles and just sobbed. I had no answers. I apologized to him. I apologized for my parental incompetence and faulty wiring as a human. This was the one shot I had at being a parent.
When we got home, I put him down for a nap and combed through everything. I threw out a lot of paper. I found one phone number I had not called, a pediatric developmental specialist 40 miles away.
I made the appointment and within 2 hours, he not only gave us a proper diagnosis, but he also had a solution to kick-start Connor’s speech. He prescribed 3 mg. of Prozac to be applied topically daily for three months. He recommended programs and school protocols that helped. And he gave us a label that fit: Asperger’s Syndrome.
I devoured every piece of information I could about being an Aspie. The more I read, the more my whole life began to finally come into focus. And for the first time, I did not feel alone. Famous people, brilliant people, non-verbal people with full lives all experienced some of the same hurdles.
But the gift – the whole point – the path of survival that I hammered out as a child – made me the perfect mom for this boy. I would champion him in every situation I could. I would not only allow him to be himself and grow, but give him all the love and tools and opportunities to become a whole person.
I could not have asked for a better gift – for a resounding answer to “Why?”
So yes, drawing paper, crayons, books, music, a drum, clothes he liked, trips to the park or pool. YES! Anything to give his imagination wings!
And mostly time together. And time alone when we both had too much of the world.
Connor’s gift to me was a moment late one night. I thought he was asleep. I was baking brownies in our little galley kitchen. He came around the corner in his pajamas and said, “Can I have cake?” These were the first words he ever spoke. My heart melted.
So, of course. We had cake.
Connor is 20 now. He looks a bit like Ryan Gosling.
He is a high school graduate. He works and goes to Adult Transition Academy. He draws and has had 2 art shows. He has created a coloring book about animal species. He is learning animation and has created original characters for a comic book.
He is a capable, happy, gifted adult with goals and dreams. Wild At Art – Connor’s Facebook page.
As I continue my blog, I will be writing about more experiences both as a child with Asperger’s Syndrome and parenting a child with the same diagnosis.
Of course, I will continue with poetry and journal entries as well.
My hope is that reading my works will help others feel connected – whether you are on the spectrum or not.
Thank you for reading and following my blog.