Continuation of the post titled, What's Autism? Asperger's What?

My son was four or five years old when he was kicked out of preschool. He became violent with an educator who was insistent on pushing him into a group class activity. It did not end well for either. That educator received two bloody fingers from fingernails broken down past the quick during the struggle. My son got the boot, and I had to find another preschool for him.

A trip to a neurologist for an EEG (electroencephalogram) after the incident found that my son's results were normal. The doctor whose go-to was prescription drugs diagnosed my son as ADD/HD (Attention Deficit Disorder/Hyperactivity Disorder. I disagreed. I said no to the drugs. The doc recommended behavior modification as an alternative way to deal with my son's issues. Except the neurologist didn't know much about it. Oh, well. First, I had to figure out what afflicted my son before I could begin to help him.

Armed with the dubious ADD/HD diagnosis and some Asperger's Syndrome literature sent to me by my teacher cousin, I began researching both as much as I could. The more I researched, the more I was convinced my son was an Aspie, a diminutive for Asperger's Syndrome. 

Asperger's is a developmental disorder punctuated by difficulties with communication and social interaction. It has nothing to do with intelligence. On the contrary, Aspies usually are of average to above average intelligence. The Aspies' brain processes information much differently than your brain or mine. It's why I say my son is wired differently.

My son was always verbal. But he talked in a monotone voice. His speech was not peppered with inflections but instead was flat. He made questions sound like statements. He also couldn't whisper to save his life. Very typical of an Aspie.

He had a very formal speech pattern because he never used contractions when he spoke. You and I would say, " I can't do that."  He would say, "I cannot do that."  Also, a hallmark of being a high-functioning autistic.

 My son could make himself understood fairly well but had issues understanding what other people were trying to communicate to him. He had difficulty understanding euphemisms and most figures of speech. Something most of us take for granted. Aspies tend to be very concrete and literal. so, sarcasm and euphemisms usually go right over their heads. 

Here's a few perfect examples of how differently my son perceived words spoken to him. 

He was away for a weekend visiting his father, when I brought home a female, tortoiseshell, kitten. When my son got home, he was all excited about naming the feline. He came up with a few, like Shadow, which were monikers of other cats we had owned previously but I didn't care for anything he put forth. 

He was trying so hard; I could tell he was becoming frustrated. I didn't want to discourage him too much, so I said, "Don't worry about it, we can always name the kitten later." He replied, "Later. I like that name. We will name her Later." So, we had a cat named Later. 

During a conversation with his only girl cousin, who thought she should be paid for household chores, my son piped up and said, "Mom, you should pay me to do my chores." I replied, "Don't go there." Completely deadpan and with a confused look on his face, he said, "Go where, Mom?"  His cousin and I got a giggle out of it. 

Asked what it means to lose your marbles, he said, "You will have to go find them." What does it mean to be a sandwich short of a picnic? "Someone will go hungry," he answered. Well, he wasn't completely wrong -- but he wasn't right, either.

I was lucky and blessed enough to find a Head Start preschool that accepted my son and offered language therapy.  It didn't matter to me what his on-paper diagnosis was, I was happy he began getting the assistance he needed with his communication skills. He received this assistance throughout high school. Speech therapy is what it was called.

On the home front, I did my best to expose him to figures of speech, euphemisms and sarcasm.  When he misconstrued such things, I always made a point of explaining the intent and meaning of such forms of speech. Just because he had difficulties with understanding such things didn't mean I sheltered him from such forms of communication. On the contrary, I intentionally exposed him to typical patterns and phrases of speech. I never spoke differently to him than I did to anyone else. That just meant, I did more explaining.

Eventually, he got it. As an adult, he understands his mother's sarcasm. His typical retort to my sarcasm is, "Very funny."

Since he was young, it's been his job to name our feline pets. He's much better at it, now. We currently own cats named Orca, who is black & white, and Pan, which is short for Panther, our all-black cat, (yes, both my son and I are Marvel fans). 

Thanks to his years of speech therapy, he also uses contractions now. He has grown to not only understand figures of speech, but uses them, correctly. The most recent example occurred around Thanksgiving when I asked if he wanted to put up Christmas lights on the house. He looked at me and said, "I'm just not feeling it, Mom." 

I was simultaneously proud, amused and annoyed.  These don't sound like big accomplishments, do they? But in a world that can be cruel to anyone wired differently, being a bit more typical makes it easier for my son to live in our world his way. 

More about his challenges to come....................

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