By Barbara Doyle
I am a mom to a child with Asperger’s Syndrome. It is a mystery and a delight and sometimes exhausting like you wouldn’t believe. Although my son Finn, who is now eleven years old, is very high functioning, there is still so much misunderstanding in the world about his condition and how it affects him and our family. There are so many times I wish I could build a bridge between Finn’s brain and the brains of the more “typical” human beings. I want to explain to them what he is thinking, and how he operates, and how, if they take the time to understand him and give him a chance, they will find his Asperger’s is not a condition to be “managed” or “tolerated”, it is in fact just a different way of thinking, and there is a lot about it to celebrate and enjoy.
I sat down with Finn and asked him: what are the top ten things you would most like to say to someone who is trying to understand what it is like to have Asperger’s Syndrome? What would you most like to say to a kid who has it and needs a friend? His answers, in his words, were these.
- Having Asperger’s can make it hard to make friends, because you think differently than other people. When I was in second grade, I couldn’t make friends with practically anyone, because I got mad easily and I couldn’t take a joke. I didn’t understand them. I just thought they were offensive. Now, I have tons of friends because I know how to control my Asperger’s reaction. I can take a joke now. If I don’t understand a joke I ask for clarification. I still don’t think like other people, but I understand better how they think.
- Parents can get mad and think you’re throwing a tantrum, even though you are not. You can be really mad about something and not know how to control it or express it and it can look like a tantrum even when it isn’t. The best way to help the situation is to tell your parents you don’t know how to express your anger, and if they don’t believe you you can ask if you can go to a therapist or someone who can help you. You can also go to your room and cool off, because it is your space and no one else can really intrude in there. That’s helps, because there is no one else around and you can settle down and apologize for anything you did in anger.
You aren’t crazy, you can just hear or feel or smell things other people can’t.
- Kids with Asperger’s tend to have advanced senses. For example, when I went to Elementary school there were two buildings, the bigger building and the smaller one. I went to Kindergarten in the smaller building. One day a fire alarm went off in the big building and, even though no one else could, I could hear it. Sometimes you might think you’re crazy, and sometimes other people will argue with you about it or tell you you are nuts. You aren’t crazy, you can just hear or feel or smell things other people can’t. Treat this as a benefit, because you have a slight advantage over typical people in that you notice things other people don’t.
- If you have a typical sibling, you might get along well, or you can start World War Three. Asperger’s can make you really annoyed when things don’t go your way, and with siblings, it can be really difficult to control your anger. The best bet is to walk away, find your own space, and if your sibling follows you, go get your parents for help. Don’t beat up your sibling, even if they are being off the scale annoying. Feelings can’t be wrong, but how you execute on those feelings can be hurtful physically and mentally.
- Having Asperger’s at school can be a challenge. People who misbehave can make you feel really uncomfortable, and it can be hard to watch kids who misbehave a lot never get in trouble. Bullies target kids who are different, whether you have Asperger’s, Autism or Special Needs. Make friends with an understanding adult and look for nice, accepting kids who treat you like a normal person. That means a lot, and it will make school much easier.