We Put the 'Special' in 'Special Needs'

Being a Mom 12

It's almost a blessing that my eldest was diagnosed on the autistic spectrum well before the words "autistic spectrum disorder" were on the lips of every single parent on the planet. Very few people worried if their children showed a particular interest in an odd subject matter or lined their toys up in long meandering chains. And a diagnosis of something like Asperger Syndrome wasn't synonymous with "death sentence."

Because Asperger Syndrome is so far from a death sentence, it's absurd. It's just life, through a different lens.

No, I didn't mourn when my son was diagnosed and I don't mourn now. I understand that his own quirks are partially the Asperger's and parts of them are just, well, who he is. With a mother like me, it's almost expected my children would be quirky.

Certainly we do have our challenges. Autistic children are slightly like Siamese cats in that they choose Their People. Everyone else can piss off. My son has long-since chosen His People, and much to my dismay, while I'm a close second, I'll never be number one. I won't lie and tell you it's not hurtful, but it's something I've come to grips with.

Rather than understand how someone else is feeling as a normal child does, based upon facial cues, body language, and subtle nuances, my son has required teaching. It's not that he's not empathetic and more that he simply doesn't understand anything beyond what is explicitly stated. If I say, "I'm happy" and I'm weeping openly, he'll accept that I am happy because this is what I said.

Despite being a highly Type-B personality myself, routines are rather inflexible in my house. After nearly 10 years, I've learned it's not worth it to interrupt a routine unless absolutely necessary. Sure, it means we miss out on some stuff we may have otherwise participated in, but to avoid a meltdown, I'll do just about anything.

Eating is a routine we've kept simple. I'm certain the grocery store checkout clerks who watch us purchase the same items week in and week out must think we're the most boring souls on the planet. But, for Ben, I can't just say, "If you don't like what I'm serving, you don't have to eat." Because, well, the kid DOES need to eat sometime.

Now that autism is the new big buzzword, I rarely mention that my son has a form of it. I'm tired of the, "So, is he good at counting cards?" or "What's his 'special' skill?" Like an autism diagnosis means he's suddenly got the ability to see through walls.

(That would be kick-ass.)

He's just a kid who has some quirks. Like his siblings, he'll struggle with some things and not others. There will be times he has to learn to adapt and things he'll remain rigid and inflexible about. He'll grow and thrive and continue to make my heart soar with pride. And, like everyone else out there, there will be people who don't understand him.

And it's those people who we should truly feel sorry for -- not my son. Because he knows that he's perfect, just as he is.


inspiring kids, special needs, autism, tantrums


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Dawn Carter

This sounds exaclty like my son! It's nice to know, I'm not alone in this.

Julie Hargrove-Crossman

I couldn't agree more! My son has been recently diagnosed (he's 13), and it was a relief to finally be able to tell people his quirks are part of the disorder-isn't that sad? That I feel I have to explain to people, when it's really not their business. I've known all along, but couldn't get anybody to take me seriously. People just don't understand, and it's been very frustrating. He started Junior High this year and it was HORRIBLE. His social skills just suck and he doesn't get that kids at this age are just dreadful. It didn't help that he had teachers who wouldn't go along with his 504 plan. I have never fought harder than I did this year-I am now "that parent." Oh well, it is what it is, and my son should be allowed to have his quirks, and be who he is, and people need to learn how to deal with it. I wouldn't change a thing about him.

2Youn... 2Young4RA

I agree with you - your son just views and takes in life from a different angle. When I got the diagnosis for my son, I read everything I could on the subject and spent a great deal of time with him teaching him how to interpret social clues, how to look people in the eye (he doesn't always do this, but it's more often than not), how to play.  It was exhausting work, but so worth it.  Now at 15 you would be very hard pressed to know that he has Asperger's unless I told you.  He now attends a private school for kids with learning disabilities and has become the quintessential "social butterfly."

I am so sick of cooking and eating the same foods, but like you said the kid has to eat. It is such a joy when he finally moves onto a new food group, lol.

kisse... kisses5050

 My daughter is an aspie girl..it is a bit more daunting because she doesn't fit into the "girl" tyoe that they are suppose to be... she is 13 now and one of the most interesting people I know... when Sandra Bullock did the movie All About Steve we people said why are you crying? and it was because I could see so much of my daughter in that character.

Laurette Olsen

It is so great to read articles like this. I am raising my grandson who is 10, and has Asperger's. I think he is amazing. I don't mind fixing the same thing everyday, I worry that if he stops eating a peanut butter sandwich everyday for lunch, then what? The foods he will eat are few, but he seems to be doing fine. I was thinking how wonderful the world would be if everyone had Asperger's. My grandson doesn't lie, he tells it like it is. He doesn't have any malice. His brain would never think of being mean or hurtful to anyone. He is so trusting of everyone. He loves school and mostly math, because math has rules and they don't change, unlike spelling words. I woudn't want him any different. What a wonderful blessing he has been to all of our lifes. I sometimes wonder if there is a bigger plan for all these children that are on the Autism spectrum, maybe to make the world a better place.

spira... spiralbelle19

I loved this article!  Thanks for sharing a piece of you and your son with us.  My son is amazing, smart, quirky, funny, and yes he has Aspergers.  He is set in his routine and loves exactly 3 foods.  hahahah I understand completely.  When we told my son he has Aspergers we told him that all it means is that his brain works differently than other kids, and some things he will pick up very quickly and other things will take him a little longer.  And the point is we love him for who he is, and nothing not even an autism diagonosis will ever change that!


jaxmadre jaxmadre

Reading this and the comments, makes me cry tears after my son was diagnosed YESTERDAY with Aspergers. Laurette's grandson sounds so much like my son. For my son it's SOUP! (yes, with an exclamation point). And he also wouldn't DREAM of lying, and is very offended by other children who do.

He's the BEST kid in the world. He enriches my life every day, and all the people around him. He is my joy. Pure joy.

nonmember avatar Sarah

Thank you for writing such a well written piece. It's exactly how I feel. Having an ASD kid will never be easy, it will always be different, but he's still my child and I cannot imagine my life without him!

nonmember avatar Kimmad

Amen! My Asperger's so is the same way. I continue to call him quirky, and really, who isn't a little quirky?

Jennifer Schoeneman Wysokowski

That was a great post. My quirky son is twelve, and he was only recently diagnosed. I think people sort of expect Rainman, and they just see a kid who doesn't quite look you in the eye, and complains if I want to do something out of the ordinary--like go for a walk with him. But he's awesome and smart and I love him.

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