Sunday, January 30, 2011

Should You Tell Your Child They Have Asperger's?

The years are going by. MJ just had his 11th birthday.
Next fall he will be starting Junior High School.
He's not a little kid anymore.

So, when should we really sit down and have the "You Have Asperger's" talk? Or should we?

OK, now as MJ was first diagnosed with Asperger's when he was 7 years old, he knew something was up. I'm not sure he knew or understood what that something was, but he knew. We've never necessarily hidden anything from him, although I have often chose to talk with teachers and doctors without him in the room as to not make him feel awkward. But, as he has gotten older, I slowly started making him aware that he was a little bit "different".

It seems weird that I am saying this, but thank goodness my husband has Asperger's so that I can somehow connect someone else to him and he can see that it's not some death sentence or anything. About the time MJ was 9 years old I started telling him how his brain was "wired differently than other people". He knows the word Asperger's Syndrome, but the way I explain it to him is that his brain works a little differently and he processes things a bit differently, and there is nothing wrong with it, why his dad has the same thing and thinks the same way and he does OK.

So, this has worked for a while, as we often sit down at the table and have our "Social Teaching Sessions" where I help explain to both my husband and my son what happened during a social event that we just attended that they didn't quite get, or it's where I might explain to them why they were not accepted appropriately or they didn't respond the "socially acceptable" way.

Now, really, I love my boys and I honestly cherish many of their Asperger traits, so I will tell them a lot of the social rules are just plain dumb, but it's the way most people do things and it's just something they have to learn, but I never tell them they are bad or wrong exactly, I just try to show them other ways to behave or respond in certain situations and I try to explain what they can do in circumstances where they are probably not going to understand or figure things out. I'll explain more in detail about some of our "tricks" to overcoming social misunderstandings in another post.

However, things have been getting difficult lately. I don't think MJ quite understands what Asperger's is exactly and I don't think he realizes that it is a part of him that isn't going to go away and that he needs to accept it and figure out how he's going to deal with it in life.

But how do you do this? I mean, how do you sit down your kid and tell them there is something "wrong" with them without telling them that there is something wrong. Does that make sense even? I don't think Asperger's is something wrong, and I honestly don't consider it a disability. I have always said it is just a different way of life, but as my husband, an Aspie himself, tells me that it is a disability, yet it is something that can be overcome. He has struggled as a boy growing up always knowing that he was "weird" or something was wrong or different with him. Why didn't kids like him? What was it that he couldn't figure out? He thinks of his Asperger's as a true disability, but it's not something that is going to stop him from succeeding in life. He finds ways everyday to overcome or challenge his Asperger traits. It's like trying to live normal.

Well, I told my husband that I couldn't do it. I'm the one who has been talking this all up for years trying to gently tell my son that he has Asperger's but it's no big deal because Daddy does too, and they are both just different, but I don't think he is getting it all the way. He knows he has different struggles that other kids don't, but then much of the time I think he may even think it is just funny the mistakes he makes. Who knows, but I told my husband that he needed to be the one to talk to him. It wouldn't be right coming from me. If anyone was going to sit down and truly tell another person that they have this syndrome, or this disability, wouldn't it be best coming from someone else who has lived with it all their life and really understands what it means and how it affects their life?

So, as I'm typing up this blog, my dear Aspie husband is downstairs having a heart to heart with my sweet, talented 11 year old son who also has Asperger's. Yet, this may be the first time he really hears everything it entails.


Bella @ If This is Motherhood said...

I can see how this would be hard. But maybe, your perspective just needs to be changed.

A teacher thinks differently than a child. A nurse, differently than a doctor. Ultimately, we all think differently.

While it is called Aspergers, all it really means is that he thinks differently. Right? And there is nothing wrong with that.

Would you hesistate to tell him he was gifted and thought differently? Aspergers children have a lot in the lines of insight, to teach the world.

Sensory Mom said...

Totally agree with this comment.. Asperger people are really not any different than anyone else as far as I am concerned,,, In fact, to me, Aspie kids have a 7th sense, which makes them really unique.. Their brains are wired "unique." I agree it is going to get harder when your son goes to the "peer pressure" zone, but I think if we teach our Asperger kids self-confidence, and remind them just how great they really are, it doesn't matter whether they have autism or not.. and it shouldn't. Who says "normal" society is all that great anyway??? The "non-autistic people?" Or are we just so conditioned to believe and buy into what "society" is in the first place? Both my boys have Aspergers, and they are who they are, and I love them for all they are... if society doesn't "get" them?? Who cares...... We will deal with the mountains when they rise..Good luck!