“Good” days are frequent. So are the not-so-good days. Sometimes there are days that are “good” overall, but have moments in them that we would just as soon forget. And there are the not-so-good days where we can find that silver lining. Such is life when you have and Aspie in your house, or if you are the Aspie in the house.
Amber and I learned early on, and continue to be reminded every day, that Kaitlyn will put us on a roller coaster of emotions on a daily basis. She is on the roller coaster every day, too. She has her ups, and she has her downs, and she certainly has all the twists and turns that one would expect when you buckle in to your seat on the ride.
What we struggle with is conveying the ups and downs to a lot of people. Because Kaitlyn will often string together a series of good days, it can be a week or more between her meltdowns. And we have found that, when people only see the times where she is not in meltdown-mode, it is difficult for them to understand the swings that accompany a dive into a not-so-good moment.
A prime example is our family reunion we just returned from this past Friday. We had a fantastic time, and Kaitlyn had a ton of fun, and our vacation came at a great time on our calendar. I can ask every member of my family that had even the briefest (is that a word?) encounter with Kaitlyn, and I bet that they would all say that she strung together a week of “good” days, and they would be right, at least for the most part. But what went unnoticed were the times that she was on that steep decline or on the twisting, upside down part, of the roller coaster. The times where she started to have a meltdown, and either Amber or I (often both of us) would intervene and get her back on track. What Amber and I know, and what we saw, is that some of the meltdowns could have been tremendous. And what Amber and I succeeded in accomplishing was keeping the meltdowns from becoming a focal point of the moment.
Kaitlyn, like a lot of females with Asperger’s, is sort of like a chameleon. She can easily blend into social situations and make people believe that everything is operating splendidly. But just below the surface, even the slightest shift can cause significant turmoil.
Social difficulties are just one of the many character traits that make Kaitlyn who she is, an Aspie. The absence of social difficulties for a day, a week, or any length of time, does not mean anything more than Kaitlyn is doing a great job of blending in to her environment; it is sort of a defense mechanism for her so that she finds her comfort zone and can still be present with those around her. The absence of the social awkwardness does not indicate that she is “cured,” especially since Asperger’s is not something that needs curing.
Amber and I struggle daily with how exactly we should be parenting Kaitlyn, but that is a good thing. We know that there has to be some variation in our parenting style, but at the same time, Kaitlyn excels when she has a structured, consistent routine/environment, and in an environment that emphasizes discipline and rules. When we leave the comfort zone that is our home, and Kaitlyn’s routine is thrown off, our reliance on discipline and rules is what keeps Kaitlyn from being miserable and allows her to enjoy herself.
If I could offer one bit of advice or guidance to those who do not interact with someone with autism or Asperger’s on a regular basis, it would be that they should not get fooled into thinking that the Aspie has somehow grown out of or somehow been cured of having Asperger’s, just because they are not constantly exhibiting obvious signs. Even the best chameleons can be spotted if you look hard enough.