- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Learning That My Adult Son Has Aspergers Syndrome
A Different Approach to Life
My son, David, who is 23 years old, never played with toys as a child but has always loved anything electronic or electrical. Whether I bought a new small kitchen appliance or the newest electronic gadget, he had to be the first to turn it on and see how it worked. He never liked playing or interacting with other children. He was always off to the side doing his own thing. When he watches TV, it is usually only 2 channels; the Syfy channel and the Food Network. When he drives the car, he listens to the same CD over and over. When it comes to eating, he finds one food he likes and eats that food item for months at a time. For instance, it was salad for years, easy mac for months at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and now it is homemade waffles. Sometimes he will become so fixated on a project that he will go a whole day without eating.
When he was in school, his grades were average and some of his teachers would occasionally comment that he likes working by himself. At the time, I didn't see it as a problem. He did have a few problems that did come up. When he was in Head Start, his teacher came up to me in tears saying, "He is the only child who has made me cry. He has been trying to learn to jump rope all day and has been blaming me because he struggles with it". In second grade, his teacher got so frustrated with him he grabbed him by the arm so hard, pushed him up against the wall, screaming at him that it scared the other children. Thank goodness that teacher was suspended from teaching because of his reaction toward David. He didn't have the patience or understanding to work with him. He was a pretty good student, he would just get overly frustrated and have a bit of a melt down on occasion.
Now that he is older, my hope is that he would be living a life surrounded with friends, experiencing new adventures and trying to become self-sufficient and independent. Inevitably, it hasn't been that easy. Getting him through the day can be like trying to push a boulder up a mountain. He just won't budge. He is very literal and becomes very frustrated when he doesn't know his schedule for that day.
Finding an accurate diagnosis
David was recently diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. He is very bright, learns quickly, and is very self-sufficient when he sets his mind to it. He is tall and handsome but carries himself as though he lacks self confidence. I always knew he struggled with social issues and was very strong willed, but I just thought it was his personality. I would just have to accept his quirky behaviors as part of his personality. It wasn't until 2 yrs. ago that I became aware of Asperger's Syndrome. I was talking to a friend of mine who mentioned that her husband was just diagnosed with it and began sharing the symptoms. The more she explained, I started to hear the similarities.
When he was 18 yrs. old, he started expressing how he felt different from others and didn't understand why he was feeling so disconnected from the rest of the world. David didn't form friendships very easily, but when he did, he would stick close to that one friend faithfully. It seemed that friend happened to have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), which seemed to be a common diagnosis among his peers as he was growing up. He had convinced himself that he also had ADD. Since he didn't have insurance, he decided to go the State Health Department to get a diagnosis. The first diagnosis was that he was spoiled and disrespectful. The counselor who saw him just thought he needed to grow up so she recommended that he go to her counseling sessions.
The other diagnosis he received were that he was just depressed, then he was bipolar, and finally he had ADD. For the next few years he was treated for the ADD, but he still struggled with the same social problems. He even had less ambition than before taking medication.
Finally, he was getting health insurance so we decided to have him consult a specialist who is familiar with Aspergers Syndrome. In my research, I spoke with one psychologist who immediately tried to diagnose him over the phone stating,"It sounds like he's just depressed." After hearing that comment, I realized the importance of using an experienced specialist.
Having a proper diagnoses, has been a relief for both David and myself. It has been hard enough going day to day not understanding why David struggles with simple and proper communication, building relationships and having the ambition to experience daily living practices.
Before seeing a specialist, my son and I found an Aspie test online. We both decided to take it so we could get a general idea of where we fall on the spectrum. It is the best one I have found yet. It is worth checking out if you may be concerned you or a loved one may also have Asperger's Syndrome.
What is Asperger's Syndrome?
Asperger's Syndrome is a milder form of Autism. It is sometimes considered " the little professor" or "geek" syndrome. It is a neurological developmental disorder that affects social and communication skills . They have obsessive behaviors and become very frustrated when their routine is interrupted and environment is chaotic. They are sometimes physically clumsy and sensitive to loud noises,touch, and abrupt movements. They may have unusual facial expressions, awkward body posture and often look depressed.
Because of their social awkwardness, they are bullied in school and misunderstood by family and peers. Because they lack appropriate communication skills, they get very frustrated and have melt downs.
John Elder Robison - Growing up with Asperger's Syndrome
Adapting to the Surroundings
It is often very hard to diagnose Asperger's Syndrome until adolescence or young adulthood. The more people become aware of the characteristics of Asperger's, the easier it is on the child, the parents, and the educators. There is not any kind of cure or remedy, however, you can change the approach to the way you communication with him or her, create schedules, improve environmental factors, and practice more patience and understanding when problems arise.
For instance, David was getting jobs here and there in retail and the fast food business which put him in front of the general public. He never lasted long because of the social aspect of the job. He did get a job working in an office as tech support and did great. When it came to sports, he couldn't do anything as a team, nor throw or catch any kind of ball because of coordination and social interaction. He has tried skiing, snowboarding, biking, hiking and rock climbing and does well because it is an individual sport and he fixates on the accomplishment of going from point A to point B. He just lacks the ambition and the confidence to pursue adventurous activities .
Since he has all of the life skills needed for independence but struggles with organization and consistency, we found it helpful to create set schedules for household duties, recreation, projects, and travel. It seem to keep the frustration level down and makes the communication a little easier.
It has been very difficult as a parent trying to connect with my son but now that he has a diagnosis, I don't blame myself for his behaviors. I feel like we have a new start with a better understanding of his needs. To help me see a little into his world, my son and I have found that we love to watch the TV show "The Big Bang Theory" together. He can relate to the character "Sheldon Cooper". It brings our differences a little closer and keeps us laughing together.
Helpful Sites to Check Out
- Wrong Planet - Autism Community
Wrong Planet - Aspergers and Autism Community
- Asperger Syndrome checklist: Gifted Adult\'s Inventory of Aspergerisms
Asperger syndrome inventory scored online, designed by Paul Cooijmans.
- Famous People with Aspergers Syndrome
A list of famous people with Aspergers Syndrome described as having social skills deficits
- Adults with Autism | Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, to funding research into the causes, prevention and treatments for autism, and to advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.