Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hi, I'm Dee and I have Asperger's Syndrome

I've known for several years that my youngest son has Asperger's (aka, high functioning autism and/or autism spectrum disorder). It took longer to realize that I have it too. My son goes to see a psychiatrist once every 3 months. His doctor has all but confirmed that I'm an Aspie too. I would of course have to make a separate appointment for myself to get an official diagnosis. Just don't see the need in that.

When I look back on my childhood I can see so many times when I've displayed the classic symptoms of an Aspie. My mother tells me that when I was a toddler I would hold my breath to get my way. She was afraid to let me do that until my pediatrician told her just to let me. He told her that I would simply pass out and start breathing again. Apparently she took his advice, because I don't remember ever doing this.

Aspies tend to have chronic insomnia. I can testify that my son has struggled with this for years. I've been an insomniac for as long as I can remember. My mother says that she used to put me down for naps and I would lay perfectly still for at least an hour or two and NEVER go to sleep. My sister on the other hand would be out if my mom could just get her to be still for a few minutes.

I've never felt socially adept. This has always been a struggle for me. I used to have a terrible time making eye contact with others. I've had to train myself to do this. I've even learned to read most social cues.

I remember one time when I was in middle school, I'm think. I was at some sort of class party that was being held at our local community center. Everyone was playing some sort of tag game that involved the boys catching the girls to give them a kiss. I went and hid in a closet and cried. I refused to come out when my friends came to find me. Now, keep in mind that these were all kids that I went to school with every day and had since 1st grade! Not only that, but we are only talking about some 10-15 kids who showed up for this event at the most. 

At the time I couldn't explain why I was acting the way I was. However, now I know that I was placed into a situation where all the social rules had totally changed. I felt completely out of place and overwhelmed. I had no clue what the social rules were in this situation so I pulled into myself and hid away. There have been numerous other similar examples of this in my life over the years. 

For years, I've tried to understand and explain to my hubby why when he comes up behind me and wants to love/hug on me, I stiffen and resist. Poor thing took this personally for a long time. I tried to explain to him that it has nothing to do with him, but I really didn't understand why I was doing it myself. Now that I know that I'm an Aspie, it makes total sense. Aspies tend to dislike physical affection of any kind. We really can't explain why this is, it just is. I have learned to overcome much of this tendency as well. 

I also have many sensory issues which is yet another Aspie tendency. I will often find myself tapping something because I like the way it sounds, or rubbing a particular surface because it feels nice (I can't resist rubbing the silky side of the ribbon in my Bible during church). Lately I've found myself making raspberries with my tongue just because it "feels good". Thankfully, I only do this at home and I'm trying to break myself of this habit before it becomes annoying to the rest of my family.

I'm sure that I could come up with lots more examples, but this is enough to convince ME that I'm indeed part of the Aspie club. I think it is harder for adults to recognize or get diagnosed with Aspergers. Depending on where we were on the spectrum, many of us learn to adjust and deal with our symptoms. If we were not diagnosed as children, we really had no choice. No one, including us, had any clue that we had a disorder and so we were expected to behave just like everyone else. This is often true for those who HAVE been diagnosed. There is still a whole world out there that has no idea what Aspergers is.

This knowledge has freed me up to have higher expectations of my son. I've been there and survived so I know he can too. Sure I make some allowances for his disorder, but I also keep in mind that he's going to HAVE to learn to adjust. The world is NOT going to adjust to suit him.


Christa said...

Dear Dee,
Your courage to be so transparent is so inspiring! What a beautiful example you are of God's grace. Your story is going to bless many people. I love your perspective on your relationship with your son. Thank you for sharing. :-)

Misty said...

I absolutely love the ending! My parents never gave up on their expectation for me to behave as any other kid. I would like to think that makes the biggest difference in the world. After all every single person is different, but we all are expected to make "life" work just like everyone else.

patrope said...

Great story Dee. You didn't mention it, but I was thinking about the need to wash your hands frequently and the "germaphobe" tendencies you have talked about. Are those also aspie symptoms? I love your outlook for your son with you as the living example of what he can learn to do.

MamaMary said...

Dear Dee,

You inspire me with your truth and grace. I just love this post. Thank you for sharing!

Dee said...

Thank you all! It was actually a little bit scary to post this. Never know how people will respond.

Kimmy Millet & Autumn Torgeson said...

I really needed to read something like this today, so thank you so much. My son has Autism, and I sometimes feel my expectations of him are too high. I do tend to expect him to follow all of the rules and behave. I have major guilt over whether I am doing the correct thing.