Life With A Seventeen Year Old Who Has Aspergers
Trying To Put The Pieces Together
Aspies - A Bit Different
I had never even heard of Aspergers Syndrome until I met "Freddie." (I will not be using his real name.) I knew he was a bit different, but I couldn't quite put my finger on the problem.
He was around seven years old at the time and little did I know that he would soon become part of our family.
Ten years later and countless visits with social workers, specialists and therapists have kept us busy, and perhaps been of some usefulness, but sometimes it seems nothing was really ever accomplished.
Every Asperger's child is different. Freddie deals with mild mental retardation also, which kept us constantly trying to sort things out as to what he was able to learn and to what extent.
For those who know nothing about Asperger's Syndrome and for those who are wondering if they're all alone in their attempts to help their Aspies, I want to share some of my life with "Freddie" who is now seventeen.
He loves to read. He read well beyond his years when he first came to live with us. Unfortunately, he cannot remember what he reads. I cannot tell the number of times he has read the same books over and over again. When I ask him to tell me about what he's read, he cannot seem to recall. Though I go over the who, what, where, when, how, etc., he usually has no answers.
He is compulsive. Every day, he sticks to a schedule. At 6:00 a.m., he rises and eats a bowl of cereal. Then he returns to bed. He has no alarm clock, yet is never off by a minute.
At 12:00 noon, he eats lunch. Not a minute before or a minute after. I can set my clock by him. He also will not try new foods. Cheese dogs are his food of choice. He also has chips and will not begin one food until finishing the other.
At 6:00 p.m., he eats again. Recently we had a chocolate snack around 4:00 p.m. He came to the kitchen at 6:00 to eat. When I asked him if he was hungry, he replied no...but, it was 6:00. I finally convinced him to wait until he was hungry.
Some of Freddie's compulsions I appreciate. Though it took years, he now practices good hygiene. Though his teeth brushing is more spitting than brushing, it seems he does it enough to keep good oral health. He doesn't seem to be able to grasp how to bathe himself correctly, but it gets done every day. He cannot understand how to comb his hair so I keep it very short. His shaving is hit and miss, but in time, the hair gets removed.
For a couple of years now, as Freddie has watched a few of the grandchildren reach driving age, he has expressed his desire and plans to buy a Jeep and drive. He cannot safely cross a street without supervision and I have dreaded what I must tell him.
He will talk of going to college, being a husband and father and working with a police department. But these things are simply not possible. His memory is flawed and he still cannot even understand multiplication and subtraction.
One thing is for certain. Freddie has taught me patience in these last ten years. I thought I had patience before, but have had much to learn. I dislike structure and routine, yet appreciate the ways in which it helps him.
To Freddie, life is simple. He doesn't worry about anything because he can't remember. He doesn't have mood changes or emotional outbursts so typical of seventeen year olds. I tell him he's been born with a special protection that causes him to enjoy life without worry or discomfort. He has a very high pain tolerance too. I have to watch for signs and symptoms of illness because he doesn't notice if his throat is sore or if something hurts.
Freddie adds simplicity and peace to my life. I can't say how much he has learned from living with us, but I can say that he has helped us tremendously and I like to think my husband and I are better people because of him.