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

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In a world of black and white

I've often heard people with Asperger's described as seeing the world in black and white. When I say black and white I don't necessarily mean color-wise, it's more of a right or wrong, like or dislike, yes or no description. I've been thinking about whether this accurately describes Drake's view of the world as well. I think the answer might be yes.
For example:
Drake is loud. He's loud when he talks, he's loud as he lopes through the hall, he turns his D.S. up quite loud as well. I mention to Drake that he needs to talk quieter and he whispers, I ask him to walk quieter and he tiptoes, I ask him to turn down his game and he silences it. It doesn't matter if I tell him he doesn't need to whisper, or tiptoe, or turn his game all the way down, that is his automatic response.

As most people with Asperger's, Drake has limited interests and can become quite obsessed with his passion of choice. He loves anything Lego, Pokemon, or Mario/Nintendo related, it's very hard to get him interested in much of anything else. He'll only read comic strip type books (like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Capt'n Underpants) or Pokemon guide books. Drake is at an age where he needs to be aware that there are so many other great and exciting things out there and learning about them too is where you gain knowledge. His teacher won't let him bring comic strip books for his Silent Sustained Reading and I'm trying to encourage him to read some classics instead. I sent my copy of "Around the World in 80 Days" with him today and we will be taking a trip to the city library with all of them soon. I'm not saying that Drake wouldn't be perfectly happy to read science books or whatnot instead and that's fine too, I just would like to encourage him to read other things as well. It's hard to become a well-rounded individual without being exposed to many different things.

I've also noticed that his opinions tend to be "all or nothing" in character as well. He classifies things without any shades of gray. Things are either believable or not in his opinion and that has been very hard to convince him otherwise. This makes for some interesting discussions on religion as well. I was trying to explain the reason for Christmas about it being a celebration of the birth of Christ and all I got from Drake was, "That is if you believe in that religion, I think the meaning of Christmas is the spirit of giving." He's right of course in a way and honestly I wasn't expressing any views on religion at all, I was just explaining the reason the holiday was celebrated in the first place. I was too tired to try to explain further and will have to approach that subject again later.

Think about it this way though, wouldn't it be easier if the world was black and white? Things wouldn't get complicated and messy they would be just wrong or right. Judgments would easy to make, lessons would be easy to learn. You do this and you die you don't and you live, not this might kill you or not, that might save you or not as well. See what I mean? A simplistic view of the world can be helpful in someways, but since the world is colored in shades of gray I'm afraid it could be more if a hindrance for Drake.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A gold star

Drake's school had their annual parent/teacher conferences this week and being the good parent I am, I willingly smashed attending them in between acting as Mom taxi, taking his sister to rehearsals, going to a job interview, and carting them all to a Halloween party. Phew!

With Drake, my man and I have been diligent with staying right on top of his education, ensuring he has every opportunity to succeed and thrive. Drake attends an intermediate school with all the other kids his age and neighborhood proximity, no special programs, but well monitored through his guidance counselor and well informed teachers. I don't consider Drake to be disadvantaged in any way, the label of Asperger's only explains his behavior to others. Drake is extremely intelligent and absorbs knowledge like a sponge and even takes an advanced Math class. Considering all of this, we make sure we are abreast of the expectations he is held accountable for and correct what needs to be corrected.

We were pleasantly surprised to hear that none of his teachers had any issues with his behavior and all of them raved about what a good kid he is. "Thank you for sharing him with me!", was the comment from his Social Studies teacher, which was great to hear. Drake has fairly limited focus when he has to sit for long periods and we think the fact that his classes only last 50 minutes each makes a huge difference. It's hard to get bored if you only have to think about one thing for 50 minutes and then you get to get up and move and start on a new subject. All of his teachers remarked on his improved organization (hallelujah!) and all of them, except his Math teacher, noted that they couldn't read his handwriting (not surprising).

Teaching Drake to be a little bit more responsible for himself seems to be translating into his performance at school as well. Drake walks himself home from school, makes his own snack, completes his homework on his own, practices his violin without prompting, and is expected to clean up after himself always. On his report cards there were very few missing assignments, so we know he is turning them in on his own as well. A gold star for you My Boy!

Sunday, October 10, 2010


As many children with Asperger's, Drake has a hard time making friends. He is most comfortable at home engrossed with his Lego kingdom or Pokemon battles or whatever Mario-game is obsessed with at the moment. Last year his teacher assigned a paper for the kids to write on their best friends and Drake wrote the paper on his younger brother, who is generally willing to follow along with whatever made up game Drake has concocted. I know, how sad. His step-Dad and I discovered something sadder last night though, while we discussed what we needed to do with him in the afternoons since I need to go back to work.
Drake has mentioned the existence of an imaginary friend over the last few years, his name is Invisible. He would mention Invisible as a companion as he was playing by himself in his room, talking away to someone that seemed to be there. "That's what I told Invisible", he would say as I would mention a task that he needed completing. "Invisible it's not nice to beat up Ugly (his bear)!", I'd hear as well. I know it's bad that he doesn't really have any "real" friends besides his brother, but I figured if he had an imaginary friend at least there was someone he was talking to, right?
As I mentioned, I need to go back to work after being unemployed for 6 months. While I can send Drake's younger siblings to daycare for a couple of hours after school, Drake has gotten to old to go anymore and I am concerned about him spending more than a couple of hours by himself. I mentioned my concerns to his step-Dad and that I really didn't want him being by himself after school for so long. Drake is perfectly fine by himself after school, walking home, getting a snack, doing his homework, he just crawls into his little world if not given any social interaction and it is difficult to get him to come back to reality with the rest of us. He has done so well this school  year, showing some independence being a little more responsible and I told his step-Dad that I didn't want him to backslide at all with me not being home anymore.
"I mean, he's doing so well...", I lamented, "I just don't want him NOT doing so well with me going back to work." His step-Dad assured me that he'd work out his schedule and make sure he's not by himself forever. "He is doing very well and we get along and he'll be fine", his step-Dad soothed. I wasn't convinced that he fully understood what I felt about the situation and blustered,
"Did you know that his imaginary friend isn't even his friend anymore?"
"I know, I heard about that..."
"and he still exists, he just isn't his friend anymore..."
"I know..."
"I mean, how sad that his imaginary friend isn't even his friend anymore?!"
"Yeah...", he admitted while shaking his head.
"and Invisible is now stuck to the ceiling!" I retorted laughing.
Folks, I'm not sure why Invisible is stuck to the ceiling your guess is as good as mine! Anytime I hear Invisible mentioned anymore, I hear that he is not Drake's friend and that he is stuck to the ceiling. Apparently, his step-Dad is aware of this as well and we laughed at the impossibility of the situation. I hope Drake will truly be okay, for I really worry about this, and that he won't be ditched by anymore imaginary, that ultimately get stuck to the ceiling...yeah. ;0)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A walk in the rain

My little boy Drake, is the most unique character I know. Drake was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome a couple of 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

Drake walks to school most mornings with his step-Dad, it's not quite a mile away. He seems to enjoy the independence and his step-Dad gets some exercise as well. While I normally would have driven to pick him up in the afternoons, the last few weeks he has insisted upon walking home too. I love that he is showing some signs of wanting to be more independent and I can use a little exercise as well! Mom straps on her walking shoes and speed walks to meet him about a block away from the school. Today was a little different though.
We have had rain on and off her for the last couple of days and I wanted to take advantage of the cooler temps and decided to risk getting a little wet for my exercise. It sprinkled on and off while I walked toward the school and I enjoyed the silence of our suburban neighborhood as the rain muffled any sounds you might otherwise hear. I made it to the corner where I meet Drake as it decided to start raining a little more. Drake trudged down the street towards me slower than usual (he walks with a strange gait kind of on the balls of his feet and rolls along his insteps, not unusual for Asperger's), the rain slowing him down. I walked up the street and greeted him, suggesting we walk a little faster as to not get completely soaked. (It's the southwest, umbrellas are for sissys) "Why?", he asked in typical Drake fashion. "As to not get absolutely drenched...", I replied grabbing his hand, after he handed me his backpack. I swung it up on my back and led the way, head down to semi-protect my glasses.
What 11 year old boy do you know that would be perfectly happy to be led down the street by the hand, by his Mom no less? You're right, I don't know any either, but then again, not every 11 year old boy is Drake. We trudged through the rain with Mom and son hand in hand, Drake chattering loudly behind about the movie "Chicken Little" (one of his faves) and quoting the lines. He then started asking impossible questions about people being able to "fall up" (instead of falling down) or things to get "blown down" (instead of blowing up), thus is the chatter of everyday. "Drake, how was your day?", Mom might ask. "What if your head blew up?", would be a pretty typical response from Drake. I don't know how much he gets picked on, I don't know how he interacts with kids at school, but if he's still happy and singing random songs at the end of the day...then I guess we're still good!
We walked through the rain and made it home before it REALLY started to pour. The clap of thunder cracked outside and the sky opened up anew. Drake sat quietly on his floor finishing his favorite subject of homework (that would be Math of course) oblivious to the commotion outside. When I asked him if wanted to accompany me to fetch his siblings about an hour later, he declined, content to dig through his bucket of Lego's. "You're not scared of the thunder?", I asked making sure he would be fine. "Of course not!", he called over his shoulder concentrating on his Lego project. I shook my head knowing he would, of course he would. That's my boy, Drake.