At the dinner table last night, Kiddo#1 abruptly said, “Do I have autism?”
Back in April when we got his diagnosis, the neuropsychologist told us not to tell him until we had him in treatment with a trained professional who specializes in Asperger’s. Then we decided to move, and we all agreed that rather than starting him with one therapist and moving him, it would be better to move and then find a therapist. Since moving, we haven’t found a therapist. I was going to get that done this week.
I did what every parent does in this kind of situation: Why do you ask that?
He told us about the social skills class at his school. It was a funny story: in the morning, Mr. H asked him to remind everyone in the class to come to it, so Kiddo#1 dutifully went and reminded everyone to go. He said to me, “And guess who forgot to go?”
Yep. Kiddo#1 remembered late that he needed to be somewhere other than his reading class, so he bolted out of there and got to class to hear everyone talking about “what they think autism means” and what it means to them.
I was still in stalling-parent mode: what did they say it means?
He said they said it was a learning disability.
I said that actually, it’s a different way of thinking and processing. It’s not always a disability, and some people have discovered that their autism helps them immensely with the kinds of jobs they’ve chosen, and it gives them an important perspective on the world.
Then I told him that yes, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s. He was upset at first.
I went on and explained that the Asperger’s wasn’t really a bad thing. We gave him examples of things he used to do as a small child that were probably because of the Asperger’s, such as the way he could name the make and model every car on the road at age four (no kidding: he could tell you the difference between a Celica and a Corolla from half a mile away) and how he taught himself to read at age two. We explained that these things came easy to him because of the Asperger’s, whereas other kids have a hard time learning to read. And, I continued, some things will be harder for him than for other kids.
But it’s not a disability as much as a different skill set and a different perspective, I concluded.
He liked hearing about how things he knew were special about him were related to the Asperger’s. We talked about that for a while. He felt positive at the end of the conversation, and I gave him the book I’d bought for him explaining Asperger’s syndrome.
That worked out pretty well.
And then I went to the school’s website and wrote a letter to the school psychologist (cc’d to the principal) because that was so, so, so terribly not cool.