In general, people with Asperger’s are not known for their ability to understand social boundaries. The idea of “personal space” is not one they tend to embrace. They will, however, develop deep, intense friendships and relationships. They also tend to become hyperfocused on a particular subject, to the point where it will consume pretty much everything they do and say.
Shonda Schilling shares some of these examples toward the end of her book about her son Grant. One of my favorite parts in The Best Kind of Different is Shonda’s first time speaking in public about Grant’s diagnosis. She gave a very emotional speech (I can only imagine the guts it took for her to open up the way she did in a public setting) about the struggles she had with him for so long before his diagnosis, and how life had changed since the diagnosis. Her husband Curt was up next, and offered a top ten list (one that Amber and I can relate to pretty much every one of the items), The Top Ten Things You Learn or Experience With an Asperger’s Child (pages 166-67):
10. It’s humanly possible to say “stop” four hundred times in a ten-second time frame. (check)
9. You know the exact time you will be exhausted every day: within fifteen seconds of waking up your child with Asperger’s. (check, sometimes)
8. At fifteen your Asperger’s child will likely have an IQ twice as high as yours and let you know when and how you were wrong every day. (can’t wait)
7. Everyone at the grocery store, swimming pool, or other public gathering place knows your child’s name, even if you didn’t tell anyone. (check)
6. Be prepared to never have the last word in any conversation ever. (check and double check since Kaitlyn is a female and I stand no chance).
5. Pray that if they have any nervous tics or habits, they don’t include picking their nose.
4. Be prepared to be presented with more information than any human has the right to know about Legos, Star Wars, bulldogs, Bakugan, Pokemon, dinosaurs, Yu-Gi-Oh!, World of Warcraft, Webkinz, the human skin, bowel movements, and body hair–and hope your child only picks one. (check…pretty much any show on Disney Jr or Nickeldeon)
3. Do not fart in public if you don’t want everyone within earshot to know who, where, and what just happened. (check, and she announces it loudly)
2. Get ready for serious doses of unconditional love. The heart of an Asperger’s child is not bound by society’s norms, not limited to lessons we were told or taugh, not confused or embarrassed by anything the heart emits. Theirs is a brand of unconditional love we should all pray at night to be exposed to, or to be able to extend ourselves. (check, and proudly so!)
1. Be prepared to go further than you dreamed, work harder than you thought possible, to love, and to cry, but at the end of the day wrap your arms around a true gift from God. (check a million times over)
I love Curt’s list, and laugh out loud each time I read it. These are all things that we have or will experience, and sometimes at the end of the day, we are just plain exhausted. The best part about the list is that he probably could have added at least 10 more items.