Amber and I both knew the day would come eventually, but we had no idea how it would manifest itself.
Last night, out of the blue, Kaitlyn just broke down and started crying. This is not typical of her, especially right before Survivor was starting, so we knew something had to be up. It didn’t take long for us to get our answer.
Kaitlyn told us that she “didn’t feel like” herself anymore. After a little more digging, she revealed that she felt it was because of her Asperger’s. She said that she felt alone in the world and that she is treated differently by some kids because she has autism. We were in the midst of a full-blown meltdown.
From the time Kaitlyn was diagnosed, Amber and I started discussing how exactly we would handle telling her, and how we would deal with situations like this when they came up. When we told her about her diagnosis, she took it just fine. She asked a few questions about what it meant, and what it was, and we answered them honestly. We didn’t want to hide anything from her. Since her diagnosis, we have been upfront with her teachers about it and worked with them to maximize Kaitlyn’s days at school without interfering with or interrupting the classroom environment.
One of the first things we told Kaitlyn last night was that her autism is just part of what makes her special. It is what makes her the caring, trusting, compassionate, and gifted child that she is. She was (and is) so scared that other kids will treat her differently because of it, or that she may be bullied because of it, and Amber and I had to convince her again that those things just weren’t going to happen. (I’m not above going all “Curt Schilling” on people who mess with her, either!)
We told her that her Asperger’s/autism is what makes her love dolphins so much and what makes her want to work with them in the future (she wants to be a dolphin trainer, and Amber and I will do everything we can to encourage her to be just that). No, it is not a requirement for a dolphin trainer to have autism or Asperger’s, but it certainly can’t hurt to have someone who has been blessed with it and has such a deep love for them working with dolphins and educating people about them.
Another point we brought up with her is that nobody, under any circumstances, has the right to make her feel like she is less of a person because of her diagnosis. Nobody. Amber and I just will not tolerate it.
We know that last night will not be the last time we have to comfort Kaitlyn and reinforce to her what a blessing her having Asperger’s truly is. We made it a point to tell her last night that we wouldn’t change a thing about who she is; we are proud of her, and we wanted to reassure her that we will always have her back. Amber and I work hard everyday to make sure Kaitlyn understands how special she really is; we are fortunate to have people surrounding us who share that goal, and we are thankful everyday for the support system we have in place here (I don’t know that we will ever truly be able to express how much we appreciate what everyone does for us and for Kaitlyn everyday).
When people really get a chance to know Kaitlyn and take the time to really understand her struggles and successes, the impact it has on her, and on Amber and I, is tremendous. It truly is a gift to have a child with Asperger’s, and we do our best to teach Kaitlyn everyday that she is truly blessed to have Asperger’s.