Friday, June 3, 2011

In good company


First, let me say that I am not a specialist in Asperger's Syndrome, nor do I play one on TV.  What I write or say are strictly my own personal observations and beliefs, so please do not sue me because I said something that made you do something that caused a misdiagnosis, or created a problem, or made you do something stupid.  Have accountability, go see a professional, and leave my finances alone...besides, you really wouldn't get much anyway, so its probably not worth your time to call the lawyer on the back of the phone book to see if you have a case.  Spend that time more wisely, like figuring out how to subscribe to my blog...and don't ask me about that because I'm not even sure how it works!  Seriously, though, if some of the things I say seem like they sound very familiar in your family, set up an appointment with a true professional.  While you are waiting for their callback, please, continue reading and leave a note!

In good company...

One of the things we fail to see when a diagnosis of a "syndrome" is revealed is that the word "syndrome" should be a synonym of typical, normal, ordinary, and so on.  Instead, when you type in "syndrome" in the thesaurus you get words like condition, disease, and disorder.  My question is, how can it be a "dis"order when most people in the world have some trait that could lead to a diagnosis of some sort?  Think of it, do you know someone who does not focus well?  They have ADD  (<--- That's me!).  Wait, where was I?  Oh, yeah... Do they have problems with eye contact?  Asperger's.  What about a fear of spiders?  Arachnophobia.  Always sick?  Hypochondriac, probably.  How about sadness?  Obviously depression.  Severe mood swings?  Bi-polar.  No, diagnosing someone is not that easy, but I have yet to meet anyone who is "normal" all of the time.  My point is, call it what you will but the fact is that we all have some quirkiness about us, which is what makes life so wonderful.  If everyone were the same, how boring would that be?  Diversity is an essential spice for our lives.

In an attempt to step down from my soapbox, let me focus on some of the people in history who have made an enormous impact on all of our lives.  If these people did not contribute in the manner they did, our lives would be vastly different from the way they are now.  For example, you might not be using a computer right now, or if you live in the United States you might be speaking with an English accent, or perhaps the unrequited love of Miss Piggy would have seen its full potential in the wild...yeah, maybe not.  Forget that last one.  Star Wars?  It never would have made it to the big screen.

Bill Gates, Ben Franklin, Jim Henson, George Lucas (although many debate the accuracy of this one), Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Sir Issac Newton, Henry Ford, Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Mozart, Beethoven, Dan Aykroyd, Elvis, Honest Abe, and Mark Twain are all people who either had Asperger's or are believed to have had Asperger's based on their personalities.  The list goes on and on and on...each person has contributed to society in a way that no other could have imagined doing.  People like Jane Austen, Nikola Tesla, Issac Asimov, Carl Jung, Charles Darwin, and Thomas Jefferson, continue the list of generations of incredible thinkers.

Disorder?  Diseased?  If any of these people are diseased, I'll have what they are having, please.  Granted, some of these people led difficult lives, but perhaps that is because the outside world could not relate to their superior brain function and were stuck in their narrow-minded thinking so much that they could not wrap their pea-sized brain around such wonderful theories and contributions.  Harsh?  Maybe, but the way I see it, normal is pretty boring.

My son just turned 10 a few weeks ago.  He is going into 5th grade next year.  His reading level is at a 7th or 8th grader's.  His math ability, not so great in the classroom, but ask him to do a math problem in his head and he spits out the right answer in a matter of seconds.  History?  HA!  He knows more about history than his teachers do...and that is no exaggeration.  Writing ability...ok, that one needs some work.  Controlling his temper?  Let's just say that is for whole other blog entry at a later date.  Understanding what events deserve an explosion of anger and which need to be overlooked...Again, a whole other blog entry.  Give him a ball to play with and he's a bit awkward.  Give him a guitar and he'll play "Peter Gunn" and "Smoke on the Water" for you.  He learned those two songs after spending a week or two learning just the very basics of guitar playing.  My fear is he will want to learn the drums...Fortunately, he and I only saw guitars, no drums, for sale in Costco the other day.

He has his strengths and weaknesses, just like each of us do.  He likes Star Wars, the military, history, Legos, his cat and dog, friends, and most things that a "normal" 10 year-old would like.  He has aspirations to work for George Lucas one day, be a soldier another day, an engineer the next day, a football player the other day, and a BMX star on one of the other days.   In short, he's a kid. 

Yes, he has a few quirks that can make our life difficult at times.  What I am finding out is, if I can alter my way of thinking, then I can get my point across to him.  Think of it this way, if you are driving to the store and the road is closed because of construction, do you keep trying to go the same route only to find your car cannot travel through concrete blockades no matter how hard you concentrate on teleporting? Or do you take a detour, make a few extra turns, and still end up at the store you were trying to get to in the beginning of your journey?  Raising my son is much like taking a few detours.

One example is the token economy.  My wife reads every book she can get her hands on.  When she is not sure how to handle something, she reads.  I think that is great, but I am too impatient to read 300 pages to find out what to do.  A month or two ago, she suggested the token economy.  I do not really remember what I thought about it at the time, but now I think it is wonderful.  Basically, the token economy is a reward system for positive reinforcement.  Anything the child does that is good, he or she is rewarded with a small token.  After earning a set amount of tokens, he or she can turn them in for an item.  That item might be candy, a game, a night out with Mom or Dad, tickets to the Star Wars convention, or whatever else is of value to the child.  Each item has a predetermined value so he or she has a specific goal.  I did not think this would work.  I saw the detour and I cruised right past it thinking THIS time I will be able to make teleportation a reality and prove my geometry teacher right, for once, since the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  Sorry Mr. Kingsley, you must have never had an Aspie kid, because that detour (the token system) is a MUCH better choice!  (I'll go into detail about that idea at a later date)

Amazing things can happen with an Aspie kid.  The key, I believe, to any child is not necessarily trying to raise them in a manner that is in line with mainstream society, but more so in a way that will focus on his or her strengths.  What would have happened is Edison's mother tried to suppress his way of thinking?  What about Einstein's mother or father?  Maybe they did, I wasn't there so I cannot be sure, but I do know that the ADD mind typing these words and getting ready to send them out into cyberspace is quite an interesting character when you get to know him, and he is one heck of a creative problem solver (which has got to be good for something, right?)!  Really, all I know for sure is I still have a lot to learn.  Hopefully, I will be able to continue sharing and maybe even help a little here and there.  Remember, a diagnosis of Asperger's is not a bad thing, especially when you are in such good company. 

As always, thank you for reading and please share your thoughts!

For a list of famous people with Asperger's...

Click HERE
and HERE
and HERE too


  1. Yes, the guy writing this article is a very interesting character, one heck of a great guy who is also a great problem solver. Keep writing and maybe even adding additional topics and more photos.

  2. Hi Larry, I am a friend of Cassie's. This is awesome! My Dad and I were just talking, yesterday, about how quick Doctors are to diagnose and throw a drug at someone. I hate it, especially with children. This was a good, fun read. Thank you!

  3. Anon 1 - Thank you for the kind words!

    Anon 2 - Thank you for the kind words, too! Its a tough situation to be in...On one hand, I would like to think that we, as a society, have advanced enough to be better able to correctly prescribe medications for specific circumstances, but on the other hand, I wish no drugs were needed, ever. Hopefully, the end will justify the means.