Aspergers is a Gift, not a disability
It's an Ability, not a sign an illness
I spent the World Autism Awareness day dressed in blue and thinking about my oldest child. What will he do? What is his future going to look like? I worry daily, for him, for my other children. It is an emotional strain that I do not wish on my worst enemy. You awake each day and must be prepared for battle. This week, I will be laid up for a few days to recover from a procedure. I am preparing myself and my home for my absence. However, how do I prepare my son for this change in his daily procedure? It is a ritual, his daily routine, we must treat it with respect. I thought about this carefully and realized that the best way to go about this is with facts, concrete facts. This is what he understands. I explained the procedure and why I needed to rest. I gave him the medical reasons. He was intrigued, thus it seems his stress a bit lower. We will do our best, its all we can do, his father and grandparents will be as supportive as ever, the time will go quickly, maybe not painlessly for some others, as well as me.
I thought some more about my son as I watched and listened to parents saluting their autistic children on facebook for Autism Awareness. He got a 79 on his math test this week. That is absolutely ridiculous when we know that his brain works like a computer. He looks at the numbers and just KNOWS the answers. He got all of the answers correct, however, he is penialized once again because he did not SHOW THE WORK. Let me ask the educated readers this: How does one show work that they do not have to do? He does not have to sit and write down figures and take steps. He JUST KNOWS the answer due to his superior ability. If the educators would LEARN about Aspergers they would KNOW that the brain operates differently than the neurotypical student's. But we must follow what the state board of regents says is the correct statement since I would assume that those who wrote those rules have a deeper intellect than my son? Or that they know that each and every student is different, they are not statues made in a factory from an identical mold.
We started out journey with him all wrong. We were devastated. We were not supported by those who should have supported us. A few, but their numbers were too small to be enough. We had our child in a school that was small and should have been nurturing. Yet they allowed our child to be abused and told us that he belonged in a place where the children were far less high functioning than he was. Why? This is why, a SUBSTITUTE teacher, who by the way, never was placed permanently the remainder of her career, noticed that he handflapped. Well, the red flags flew everywhere. Nevermind the fact that at age 13 months he could read with comprehension. At age 2 and a half he could tell you about all of the Great Lakes and by age 3 he knew all there was to know about trains and the solar system. When I say he knew about trains, I mean that he could Identify a train by the pattern of wheels it had as the type of engine it was and what its purpose was meant to be. No, it was more important that he handflapped, therefore he should be "put somewhere else".
Sent somewhere else....was he contagious? He was beautiful. He looked like a china doll. His fine features and big hazel eyes. He was pleasant, if he was not pushed, of course. But push they did because these people were afraid of him. An art teacher once told me when I was quite pregnant with my 2nd child and high risk for pre term labor, that I needed to get out of denial and face the facts that he needed to be put in a special place. Mind you this was because he had a meltdown (age at 5) because she insisted he paint his mask purple instead of his favorite color red since too many other children were painting their masks red. Really? I wish I could find this woman today, because I think I might slap her.
I didn't then though. I was too scared, I was too hurt. I fought for my baby, looked incessantly for a better solution. At this time there were NO programs in public school that would help him and the ONLY program available would have been like putting him in the "snake pit" and cutting off all of his abilities. I was told repeatedly that his presence was unfair to the other children. I found out later when I finally found another school for him (after a period of homeschooling to get him away from the abuse) that the children LOVED him. They respected his intellect. They thought him different, but were not afraid of him and they were amazed by his gifts. They sought me out and asked why he left. They wanted to see him, keep in touch.
My son remembers this treatment. Years later in 5th grade, he wrote an essay about the way one of his early grade teachers treated him. He said "she didn't understand me and refused to try. That is made him hurt and sad even at age 10". He is correct. She absolutely refused to even try. She took every chance she could to set him off into a meltdown so she could make a spectacle of him. She desperately wanted him out of her classroom and figured if he made enough noise others would take her side.
She erased his work and made him do it over even though she knew writing was painful for him. She changed the written directions into something else verbally even though we told her he needed to SEE the instructions in print and that would be what he followed. He was punished when he cried over another boy pulling down his pants(the only child who ever bothered him) Funny thing is (side note) this boy, now a teen friend requested my son on facebook and my son flat out refused him saying "he is not my friend, never was". The stories are endless and still make me furious to this day. We gave her all of the help in the world with several therapists, family members and friends. We gave her so many pieces of education, videos, books, studies. She said she read them, but never did what they said.
It was a painful way to start our life with this child. It made us ashamed, it made us want to hide our child and ourselves from everyone. When we finally were able to move him, we were all scarred and it was never easy after that. The pain we felt, the treatment he received, the earliest perception of our child as "defective" stayed with all of us. It is terribly painful. Our other two children were treated as though they were "wrong" as well. It was ignorant and unnecessary.
What makes it even more painful is that we have people who love our son who did nothing and said nothing. To this day they stay in touch with this woman and treat her as a friend. I can only think it is simply easier to forget or to blame it on the child. That he was just being a brat or we were unfair to impose him on her and her classroom. That is was my fault, I MADE him the way he was, I "caused" this and the diagnosis was false. Never mind the fact that she was in charge and should have known better. They even supported her elevation in position years later, although to me this was her greatest failure and I know it haunts her. My son has said that he would like to tell her what she did to him and I am planning to allow him.
Now, he has good days and bad days. He has many educators who try their best to understand him. But he looks like everyone else and he is so intelligent, they have a terrible time understanding why he will get so upset about things they don't think should worry him. It's a simple thing, really, READ A BOOK. Go on the internet, watch a video. We too are guilty of misunderstanding and have to be reminded, so those of you who don't live with him or love him like us, we understand if you stumble. We do too, but then we brush ourselves off and get educated. I am proud to say that most educators we have met since he left the original school have loved him and worked very hard to bring out his abilities.
His third grade teacher summed it up the best. Some of the children were giggling at his differences, his laying on the bean bag chair during math, humming to himself. They thought he was stupid, unable to keep up and not learning, he was the "new boy" in their class, they didn't know him yet. The teacher called them on it. She said "oh really? You think you are so smart, watch this." She asked him each and every question they were working on. He never looked up from the Atlas she was allowing him to read and answered each math problem correctly with explanations. They were stunned and impressed. She smiled and said "don't ever judge anyone on what you THINK you know, learn.the facts." Thank heavens for this woman. To this day, we threaten to tell her if he is slacking off in class and he begs us not too. He is in high school now and recently a top scorer on his Pre-college Boards. We are flooded with letters and emails from colleges daily.
So we were supposed to "put him somewhere". I always wondered where that magic door was that all special children were supposed to pass through and stay away from all the "regular" children. What happened on the other side of that door? Did anyone other than his parents care? It doesn't seem so. Anyway there is karma. I am sad about this to some degree, but the school where he was hurt is no longer in service. I am sad for those who were good teachers and worked hard. I am sad for the children who had a great experience and are mourning the loss. But I am hopeful that the person I write about will never be granted employment with children again. Her colleagues should and will continue, but she should reflect upon what she inflicted on those she didn't care to understand and build a new life on that. What kind of world do we want? A world where there is justice for all, even those who have differences.
What kind of world do we want? I love the song World. I love that it is associated with Autism and autistic spectrum disorders. We want a world that tries. A world that loves unconditionally. Our children are the ones who break the mold. Our children are the ones who will not be afraid to look for a cure for cancer. They have the stamina to research for hours and retain great amounts of information. Our children are not DISabled. They are ABLE. They are able to live in this world if we let them. They will be self sufficient because they are intelligent. They will not be a drain on the government, living on welfare. They will make the world better. It just starts with one person who dares to look outside the box. One person who is not afraid.