The lighter side to raising a child with Asperger's

My little boy Drake, is the most unique character I know. Drake was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome a few years ago and while yes, this provides for many challenges, it also provides a unique view on life. I want to share some of the lighter side to having a child with Asperger's, maybe if you have challenges like his in your family, you'll be able to see. See that life is hard sometimes, but it doesn't have to always be.
Enjoy! Jessica

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Having an Adult on the Spectrum

J.Webb 2018

       Contrary to popular belief, you don't outgrow autism. Now, I'm not saying that some of the mannerisms and idiosyncrasies don't diminish or change, because they do, sort of. Drake (at almost 19) still paces and shakes his hands and he prefers his electronic devices to interactions with people (for the most part). Drake still loves Legos and Disney movies, and video games. Some of his tastes have changed and he loves web comics and YouTube and anime too. He still refuses to eat potatoes specifically, but will eat most things I make for dinner. Drake still doesn't like loud places or bright lights (transition lenses sure help and he doesn't go very far without headphones either) Drake is attending community college with his peers and asked to take classes on campus this semester (he took online classes last semester). Drake is little boy in so many ways, trying to navigate around adult life in this big man's body. It's been interesting, to say the least.

Growing up.

     Drake with his love of kitty shirts and crazy mismatched socks, roams the neighborhood frequently walking (pacing with a purpose, mostly) through the paths that cross in and out of the park and find their way to the sidewalk. This is where he can walk to Basha's and get a doughnut and a soda (or mac n' cheese from the deli) and sit in the courtyard seating area before wandering home. It's a little bit of independence that we can give him. I'm not sure how much he interacts with others while he's there, but our neighborhood is full of senior citizens and most just smile as he talks Drake.

     Drake, as of now, has no desire to learn how to drive. He has the ability to learn, he just doesn't want to and this is fine for now. Drake has a sister who is just 16 months younger than him and a year behind him in school and for now, drives him to class in the morning before going to school herself. My husband and I take turns picking him up when he's done and it seems to have worked out just fine. Eventually, we would like to relocate as a family to someplace where there is a better access to public transit (we live in the burbs now) and this should help later on.

     Drake wore a quarter-sized hole in his flip flops recently and never even said a word. I found them and trashed them immediately, shaking my head in disbelief. I shouldn't have been surprised though, it was typical Drake. He wears things until they no longer fit and are threadbare. He complains when he needs to get new ones (although, not as much as he used to). He has to be reminded to wash his hair really good and to shave scraggly chin hairs and to put ointment on his eczema (he over-washes his hands). He is scary while chopping something with a knife (he still has a fine-motor issue), but can make himself grilled cheese and heat things up in the microwave with ease. 

So, what now?

    Think of an eleven or twelve year old kid, in an adult man's body and this is Drake. He still has his favorite stuffed animals (and gets sad when his baby sister steals them) and has an affinity for Pikachu, but can stay at home by himself and be fine. Drake watches YouTube instead of homework sometimes and will stay curled up in his bed all day, unless we insist he interacts with us (or if mom is cooking, ha-ha). Drake's younger brother gets frustrated with him mostly when they are supposed to be cleaning up their shared room and he isn't contributing. Imagine having an older brother who is supposed to be guiding the way, but who you have surpassed in maturity. Drake's little brother has always had Drake for a brother and when they were small, Drake was still the older brother. It's very different now though, little brother is 15 now and is finding his way through the world and big brother is still moving forward, but very, very slowly. Drake's younger sister on the other hand, has always been the more mature one of them and is infinitely patient with him. The dynamic has shifted in the last couple of years and I can only hope that little brother can come to terms with it.

     Drake will probably live with us for a very long time and this is okay. We have some plans to relocate and will seek out a place to live to give Drake a little more independence with a space of his own. This way he'll be right with us when he needs help, but can learn to live independently eventually. Drake is working towards a degree database management with plans to transfer to university and seems to be very interested in the field as a whole. Drake is as involved with his religious practices as he wants to be (he's fairly selective in what he chooses to participate in) and seems to enjoy to having a place to belong.

     I had someone ask me once if it was "difficult" having a kid like Drake. The answer is no. If Drake were neuro-typical, he wouldn't be Drake. Drake, with his goofy grin and his mismatched socks and his constant "would you rather?" questions. Drake with his Pikachu backpack and his pacing through the house. Drake with his always willing to help when asked (even if he doesn't know how) and annoyance with Mom calling him "baby" (because they are all my babies, even the big ones). "Ich einen, Man!" (or something like that) he'll shout in German when I insist that he's still my baby. By the way, he's taken about 6 years of German now and it's fun to him speak it, even if he's just asking for another cookie. I have never wanted anything for Drake, other than for him to be happy with himself. He's working toward bettering himself and we're here to support him and give him the ability to reach his goals. I sure love my #drakedrakethegreat.

Friday, April 28, 2017

18 years and counting

 If I pause to think about it, maybe its's a little ironic that Autism awareness month happens to be the month that my sweet boy was born. In all honesty though, I probably don't care. I just love Drake and he just happens to have Asperger's Syndrome. It shapes who he is and how he interacts with the world around him, but it does not define him. To me he is himself and he's perfectly happy to be just that. Drake, Drake the Great.

I had Drake when I was 21 years old, my first child and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. He was born 3 weeks early after an emergency C-section because he was breech. Obviously that fact he was entering the world upside down was not going to faze him, he was ready to go!

Drake was bright and alert from the time he was born and very curious about the world around him. He walked at 15 months, was speaking by 2 and could count to at least 20 and knew his alphabet by 2 and a half. Drake preferred his educational toys to play with and would line his cars up in long lines around the room. He preferred to play by himself and loved M&M's. He got upset when he had to disrupt what he was doing and we learned to give him verbal warnings when we had to do something else.

Drake was a generally happy child with many smiles and hugs for Grandmas. He chattered constantly and made up stories and complex games for his siblings to play. Drake had a speech impediment and Mom and Dad could understand him just fine, but nobody else could. Drake attended speech services through the school district though 9th grade. Drake has lateral lisp which is hard to correct completely and if you listen closely you can hear it, but it's not really noticeable.

 Drake learned to read by 4, but did not learn to tie his shoes until he was 8. Drake did not look at you when he was spoken to and I remember telling him, "Drakee look at me, so I can talk to you". Drake's "look at me" face is this one here to the right. LOL

Drake developed some interesting "ticks" and they ranged from lip biting, to finger flicking (enough to develop callouses), to face wiping (he would have large red swaths across his face), to pacing, and hand shaking (which he still does to this day).

Drake would have meltdowns frequently and would dissolve into a screaming/crying/kicking puddle and I remember holding him down and tight in a ball until he could calm down. He enjoyed school, but didn't really have any friends preferring teachers and adults as company instead. He talked about nonsensical and made up things mostly and rarely answered questions directly. He never complained about shoes that were too small or having an earache and not feeling well.
He hated bright sun and loud noises. He didn't like daycare very much
mostly because it was loud a lot.

 By the time Drake reached 4th grade and the classroom dynamic changed, it was becoming obvious to the school that something was very different about Drake. He refused to listen to the book being read aloud, he was fidgety and disorganized and drove his teacher nuts. The district tested him and came up with a A.D.H.D. diagnosis and requested to have him medicated. Grandma had been reading up on Asperger's Syndrome and suggested we have him evaluated. Drake was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and moderate A.D.H.D. Suddenly, all his little quirks made sense. As I was filling out the evaluation paperwork, I couldn't believe how much sense it was making and everything I scolded him for, he couldn't help. I just had no idea.

 Enter a world of IEP's and administrator meetings and so many phone calls and teacher's conferences. Drake was placed with a great and understanding teacher for 5th grade and thrived. I worried so much when he entered Intermediate school, so many different classes to go to each day and his organizational skills not being the best, I was sure it was going to be a disaster. Except, it wasn't. The school had a great program for keeping the kids organized and he enjoyed only needing to sit in one place for so long before he could do something else. He lost his violin, but after giving his teacher a call and a heads up, we found it. He learned to walk himself almost a mile home and let himself in after school. He took music classes and cooking classes and even a shop class. Drake amazed me even with his limited fine motor skills and enjoyed it all.

Drake can read music and type fairly quickly and accurately. Drake loves to read non-fiction and classics too. Drake still loves Lego's to this day. Drake grew almost a foot from 7th grade to 10th. He also matured. I could ask him questions and get actual answers. He preferred his hair to be long and I obliged. He wanted to wear certain clothes and shoes and was happy in his own skin.

Drake today loves to hike and read web comics and listen to dub-step and video game music. Drake walks himself home a mile from school everyday and walks himself to the store to by donuts sometimes too. Drake wears exactly what he wants, even if it is a crazy cat shirt, plaid shorts, and mismatched socks (actually, that's kind of everyday). He has earned himself the title of "the kid with the socks" because of his love for crazy socks. Drake still prefers to stay home and doesn't hang out with anyone, but talks to kids at school all time (according to his sister). Drake has been taking classes concurrently through the community college since last year and has taken a total of 7 so far with plans to continue this fall.
 Drake still struggles with social cues and can say things that are very inappropriate at times, not realizing they are. Then again, he enjoys saying super inappropriate things to tease his siblings too. Sly boy, he is.

Drake is 18 today. I somehow managed to raise an adult not knowing what I was doing, but very much in love with this little boy I was given. Drake, you make your Mommy so very proud and I wouldn't want you any other way. Your love for life, even when it's kind of hard and easy comfort in your own skin, make me look up to you. I don't know what I ever did right, but I am so very glad you are mine. Drake, Drake you are the great. My great. My boy, Drake. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

 In case you missed Drake's feature on The Autism Site, here it is again:

This is Drake

This is Drake. Drake is 15 and funny and happy and a great kid. Drake is getting ready to start his sophomore year of highschool and is taking German and culinary arts and loves math with a passion. Drake can absorbs information like a sponge and can give you facts on almost any subject. Drake love Pokemon and Legos and taking lopsided pictures. Drake is a gaming extraordinaire and  is the first to beat whatever game his siblings and he are playing. Drake loves his family and is a total homebody. Drake loves stuffed animals and reading and teasing his step-dad and his little brother. Drake is an awesome, unique kid and Drake is on the spectrum. This is Drake.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Drake, Drake the Great!

I love Drake. Drake, despite all the things that are hard for him and the parts of the world that he doesn't understand, is a happy, unique, and wonderful human being. I never view him as a "problem" or "difficult" or even as a "challenge" and that is simply because of him. I am a better person because I was given Drake. I am infinitely more patient as a parent, I rarely yell or get frustrated, and I am his biggest advocate. I love Drake and thank God for entrusting him to me, to be his mother, his advocate, his lifelong friend.

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time in my hometown helping with an open house for a wedding and spent quite a bit of time talking to some people I know very well from my childhood. I explained that Drake has asperger's syndrome and how proud I was of him. They concluded that he was a difficult or trying and relayed a story about a grandchild (whose parents I grew up with) who they thought had aspergers at one time and was difficult. I have a great deal of respect for these people and didn't feel offended by their comments at all, but it did make me think. I don't view Drake as a challenge, he is simply Drake. It is who he is. He is extremely intelligent, but even though at 14 (and standing as tall as I am! Yikes!) he carries his bears around with him and wears chinchilla ears to school (and everywhere else) and challenges us with math problems and science questions, and quotes from every single movie or tv show he has every seen. He rarely answers questions directly and has to be reminded to move out of the way for people trying to get past. He has several ticks including hand shaking and pacing. I have to tell teachers and administrators that he isn't being disruptive on purpose. I have to ask specific questions if I want any answer at all and spend a great deal of time deciphering his needs and exactly what questions I need to ask.

In our world, there is not a thing wrong with Drake and that is the way it should be. I guess if you view your child as problematic and have a hard time dealing with them, then maybe it is you who needs to adjust your view. I can't yell, Drake would be crushed (and is every time I slip up). I have to explain what needs to be done and exactly how to do it when it comes to chores or small errands I have Drake do. He gets frustrated enough with his own inability and his sister who tends to take over. "I wanna do it!!", he'll yell and I have to intervene. She is just a year behind him and has gotten so used to "helping" that I have to constantly remind her to let him do it, so he can learn. I have to remind him to do things several times. He gets lost in his own little world. I have to remind my other-half that he requires just a little extra patience too. He is doing much, much better with this and even sat down with Drake and built with Lego's even though he needed to be somewhere. He did this because Drake asked him too. That is the key with Drake, he rarely asks for attention and when he does, you just have to stop and give it to him.

I remember when Drake was small and very frustrated with his inability to decipher the world. He would get very upset and I would pull him onto my lap and tell him, "Mommy loves Drakee, Daddy loves Drakee, Adree loves Drakee, Sethee loves Drakee, Grandma loves Drakee, Grandpa loves Drakee, everyone loves Drakee." Drake is sooo very, Drake. I love Drake.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Autism Awareness Month

A. Rogers 2012
April in Autism Awareness month and I wanted to update everyone on Drake. :)

"Autism to me, says that I accept my child wholly. I celebrate his differences and his quirky-ness. I advocate diversity. I am proud of his successes, no matter how small they may be. I hope he holds onto the compassion he has in his heart into adulthood. I don't think he needs "fixing". I am proud that he is my son, and sometimes I am humbled by that very same thought. "

Acceptance is all I ask for my aspie. ♥ He is phenomenal and constantly astounds me with his view of the world. ♥

J. Lamb 2013

What a great kid I have! I mean it, this kid makes me a better person and I don't know how I got so lucky to be his Mom.

Drake will be 14 at the end of the month (if you can believe it) and is continuing to grow leaps and bounds as a person. I don't just mean in stature because sheesh, he is as big as I am and wears a men's size 8 shoe! He is growing in a ability as well.

Drake is finishing up 8th grade and is taking an honors Math class, Science, Language Arts, P.E., plays violin in Orchestra, History, Wood shop, and breezed through his keyboarding class (that Mom made him retake and improve on because you still can't read his handwriting and he has to be able to communicate somehow, right?). Drake has also taken a Study Skills class all year taught by a teacher who teaches Special Ed., as well as, regular classes. His teacher is super patient with him and helps make sure he stays caught up in all of his classes (this is one area we struggle with) and from what I've been told, he really doesn't utilize his class time much. Drake is all signed up for Honors Math and Science next year, German, Orchestra, Seminary (religion study) and Mom can't believe she'll have a 9th grader! Wow!

Drake hates taking pictures (unless it was his idea) and is content to scowl during most of them. We were at McDonald's with my parents a couple of months ago and Drake wanted an ice cream cone. I don't believe in babying him and pulled out some money and put it in his hand and sent him to stand in line. My mom questioned his ability to do do it himself and I assured her that he was perfectly capable of getting an ice cream cone and he returned a few minutes later with my change. Honestly, I don't question Drake's ability to do anything, I question people's reaction to him more than anything.  Drake walks 1 1/2 miles home from school on days that I am unable to go and get him. Drake can do his chores without help including, emptying the dishwasher, taking out the trash throughout the house, washing place-mats, and putting away his laundry.

Drake is still very loud when he is excited and the phrase, "Drake, too loud" is said many times a day. Drake hates writing essays for Language Arts and can't grasp the concept of varying the length of sentences to improve flow for nothing. Actually, I read his writing and it reads like he talks, analytical  and straight to the point.

Drake still struggles with understanding human behavior (and pets too). We have a little chihuahua who loves everyone and spins at our feet when we return home. Drake questions him, "Why are you spinning?" "It's because he's excited to see you and wants to be pet", I'll explain and Drake either ignores him or reluctantly kneels down and pets him for a second. We recently visited my sister who just had a baby and Drake spent the majority of the visit shouting, "Why can't I hold the infant? I promise not to drop it." Next time Drake, next time. :P

Some of the randomness makes us laugh and how anyone can be so quick witted and random at the same time is amazing to me. His Math teacher asked specifically "what was up" with Drake and after telling him, I learned he is the class clown and can be a bit disruptive. I asked Drake to tone it down a bit and try not to annoy Mr. Clark as much. I talked to Drake about it later and he told me that he only annoys Mr. Clark once a day now. Ha ha! Drake's orchestra teacher also claims that Drake has the girls that sit by him in stitches most days. We had this conversation yesterday: 

Drake: How are you today?
Mom: I'm fine, are you fine?
Drake: I don't know, why don't you ask my conscience?
Mom: Drake's conscience, is Drake fine?
Drake: My conscience doesn't know, he's terrible at his job.

Drake my boy, you are just fine and Mom (and the rest of the family) are sooo lucky to have you!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A shift in view

J. Lamb 2012
Drake continues to amaze me daily. Despite his struggles to understand people and what is appropriate behavior for each social situation, he remains one of the happiest people I know. Never mind that his best friend is his little brother (little brothers are most helpful when you are pretending to have 4 arms!). Even though he doesn't hang around with kids outside of school, I know he is improving. Just yesterday I was at the Middle School with him and someone walked by saying "hi Drake!" and he turned around and waved! He actually waved!! It makes me think that all the conversations we've had over the years are working somehow. :)
As is common among Aspies, Drake tends to be very rigid in his thoughts and ideas about the world. He is a man of science and tends to be very analytical in his thought processes. It is hard to sway him to new ways of thinking. Along with his fairly anti-social tendencies, I have a hard time convincing him to try something new.  I also have a hard time convincing that other things might be right, even if you can't analyze them, or see them, or explain them through science. Take the subject of faith for example, how do you explain to someone who doesn't understand that you can just feel things and know they are true? Exactly, it would be so very hard to do so. 
I don't believe in pushing my views onto my children. I want them to grow up being able to think and do for themselves. I am here as a parent to be their guide and this is what I try to do with Drake as well. I wanted him to be able to make his own decision. I have gotten a lot of crap from people on all levels in regards to Drake, like he somehow is unable to decide for himself, like having Asperger's Syndrome should make it so I have to make his decisions for him. I'm telling you now that this is not the case. Period. Drake has been able to prove to me and all the naysayers that he has the ability to do anything and make the decisions that are right for him and me as his mom, could not be any prouder. :)