Long ago and far away, kids who drew detailed diagrams of spacecraft, created intricate models of the human digestive system, spent all their free time reading about medieval cathedrals, or enjoyed reciting complex dinosaur names — and preferred those isolated activities over playtime with peers — were labeled. The labels were a reflection of a so-called socially inappropriate desire to be absorbed with things, instead of people. Words often used to describe such kids may have included gifted, moody, antisocial, irritable, obsessed, geek, brainiac, or even stoic. They may have been thought of as outsiders, with no or few friends. As adults, they may have been considered odd and eccentric, loners or hermits.
Fortunately, today we are shifting our perception of what we now know to be Asperger's Syndrome. We are learning more about Asperger's as a milder “cousin” on the autism spectrum. (Some equate Asperger's and the phrase “high-functioning autism.”) We are accepting Asperger's as a legitimate framework to describe a unique experience. Slowly but surely, we are moving beyond stereotypes in our collective understanding of children with Asperger's. We are recognizing their different ways of thinking, different ways of perceiving the world, and different ways of being. As we grow in our sensitivity and understanding, we are better able to support and celebrate the child with Asperger's Syndrome. Instead of labeling a child as “obsessed,” we may now praise her giftedness and balance her needs to find a social niche.
We are learning more and more about autism all the time, but we're only just beginning to scratch the surface of Asperger's Syndrome. Asperger's is still a very new consideration for parents and a new diagnosis for many prescribing doctors. There is much to explore on this broad learning curve: social differences, mental health, sensory sensitivities, and coping strategies that will be of lifelong value. Parents may become overwhelmed with clinical information that reinforces their child's perceived deficits — the things they are not expected to be able to do in life. Other areas that may prompt confusion include options regarding learning and educational placement, training and programming, and therapies and techniques. Well-intentioned neighbors and family members may offer their perspectives based on what they've heard or read, whether it has any factual basis or not. Considerations for a child's future living arrangements, adult relationships, and viable vocations may create family and marital stress.
Throughout this journey, it will be important for parents to remain grounded in one thought: We are all more alike than different. Understanding the child with Asperger's Syndrome is a learning opportunity for parents, siblings, and extended family.
When we foster an appreciation of the unique ways we all participate in the world, we are poised to better value those with Asperger's. When we actively project new and positive ways of supporting the child with Asperger's, she will respond in equally positive ways. The result is that a mutual relationship is strengthened tenfold, and a ripple effect occurs.
The Everything® Parent's Guide to Children with Asperger's Syndrome, 2nd Edition aids parents in making balanced, informed choices about their child and her future. Ideally, this journey is a partnership between parent and child in decision-making and education about Asperger's Syndrome. More than ever, a path of opportunity lies before parents of children with Asperger's Syndrome.