Remember this post?
Well, I’m going to tell you now.
But before I do, I want to say a few things first…. Nothing has changed for me in my relationship with my son. I’m not embarrassed. I’m not worried. And I’m especially not afraid for him. The first few days after the preliminary diagnosis, both Courtney and I worried a lot. We cried a lot. Mostly for things that might be beyond him or out of reach, but the more we’ve prayed and learned, the more we recognize this as a blessing and an incredible opportunity for him and for us.
So are you ready to know?
Myron was diagnosed yesterday with Aspergers.
At the risk of being offensive to people and families who experience Aspergers, can I just say I’m happy? The doctor, when telling me the diagnosis yesterday even expressed some concern that I was taking it incorrectly. I was beaming. I was happy. I can even say I’m thrilled. I just am. When the doctor questioned my response, I told him plainly that I get Aspergers. This is an easy one for me (again, no offense to the serious and complicated issues those with Aspergers face). I can do this. Courtney can do this. Most importantly, Myron can do this.
So yes, I’ll smile quite happily for that diagnosis.
So what does it mean? I want to outline this very carefully so that labels aren’t attached. I want people to understand very clearly where I’m coming from so that you understand Myron and also that you understand our response.
Aspergers falls in the Autism Spectrum Disorder in the DSM IV. You could accurately say that Aspergers is a kind of Autism, though it is distinct from what you would commonly call Autism. Aspergers is often characterized by issues with social interaction and repetitive and restrictive behavior patterns. Aspergers is also characterized by heightened language and cognitive abilities. I’ve often heard Aspergers described as someone who skipped the “Social” line in Heaven in favor of picking up more stuff from the “Intelligent” line. That’s a simplistic view, but if it helps you understand….
Aspergers is largely treated using Behavioral Therapy. As a psychologist friend of mine put it, the treatment for Aspergers is good parenting. Courtney and I are not many things, but one thing we are are good parents. And we are constantly striving to be better. As the person ages, Aspergers often matures as well. In fact, some claim that Aspergers becomes more of a difference rather than a disability.
People with Aspergers often live full, engaging lives. They are typically fully functional in modern society with, as I mentioned, a few notable differences.
Specific to Myron, he tends to fall towards mildly extroverted Aspergers. What this means is that he is open and sociable with people he knows, shy around those he doesn’t (pretty normal for a kid). The primary difference is that he doesn’t necessarily understand proper social norms, such as personal space and familiar greetings. His life is scripted and he exists happily within the script. Unscripted changes are difficult to deal with, though he can be taught how to deal with that.
The doctor carefully explained that Aspergers is as much an Anxiety disorder as anything else. The unscriptedness of a new situation creates anxiety, and the level of anxiety and response to that anxiety helps define the disorder. Myron is likely going to end up as one that responds either by shutting down or by being silly. Either is outside the social norm, but not so far outside of the norm as to cause serious problems. Both are treatable.
Can I wax spiritual for a moment? Could you stop me if you wanted to?
Hindsight is 20/20, right? Can I just point out how clearly the Lord has directed Courtney and I over the last several YEARS on this issue? Even before Myron was born, we were already being guided, prompted, and directed to specific parenting skills and educational resources. Both of us are what I would consider highly educated on matters of mental illness. Both of us have written, spoken, taught, and learned a substantial amount of information on the subject.
A few years ago, I felt deeply prompted to take a class on Psychology. I took two. The first was an indepth discussion of abnormal psychology, including Aspergers. The second was more of a survey course to the workings of the brain and psychology in general. Both have served me and prepared me well for facing this. Courtney has been deeply prompted to study parenting, especially logically working with children, providing scripts, and role playing. These activities often form the foundation of working with Aspergers children.
Both Courtney and I recognize the placement of friends and many people who are knowledgeable, accepting, and supporting of us and our children. We have many psychologist friends. We have a speech therapist friend. We have more than a dozen friends that just get it. They won’t let a label become a person. We have family that feels the same way and already deals with Aspergers.
Is it any wonder when the doctor said that Myron had Aspergers that all I could do was smile? All I could do was feel a near overwhelming sense of gratitude and excitement? I don’t deny that the future is going to be hard for Myron. It was going to be hard anyway! I don’t deny that we have a big learning curve. We were going to have one anyway!
Instead of fretting about the bad stuff, I am looking forward to the successes, the opportunities. I said in that post I linked to at the top that the experiences of life are uniquely and specifically designed to save us. They are designed to give us the abilities to become perfected. What an incredible blessing it is that we have a Father who sees enough potential in us that He gives us the opportunity to expand, to stretch, and to grow and especially that He gives us the ability to do so.
Sigh… No, I’m not afraid for my son. No, I’m not afraid for his future. No, I’m not afraid for Aspergers. I’m excited. I’m happy. I’m eager to take on this incredible challenge, and I’m especially interested to see how this blesses the life of my son, the lives of my daughters, my family, and those around us.
What a privilege and honor it is to experience that first hand!
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