Saturday, March 17, 2012


The other night I watched a new show called "Touch".  I wanted to love it, really I did.  I loved the premise of a dad trying to connect with his Autistic son through a world of numbers.  But, honestly, I felt as if it would do more harm than good to those raising kids on the Spectrum.  I remember the early days of raising my son and how smart he was, and still is.  Before I knew that he had Aspergers and what it all meant, and even in those early days of knowing, I believed that he would somehow save the world.  Maybe he would find the cure for cancer or invent a time machine.  Perhaps he would create the the newest technology and become a billionaire or find a worm hole that would allow us to populate a new planet before we thoroughly destroyed the resources on earth.  I suppose that all parents want to believe that their children are special and capable of great things.  But I didn't think of these things with my NT daughter.  For her, it has always been that she would sing.  I didn't have grandiose ideas that she would be a super star or that she would even make a living with her singing.  Don't get me wrong, she has a beautiful voice.  She is good enough to get solo's in her advanced high school choir and good enough to get picked to be one in forty students performing in the advanced show choir out of a school of about 3,000 students.  So, yes she is good.  But it's not the same as how I felt about my son.  His mind was so interesting.  The way he saw the world was so different, that I honestly believed that he was destined for great things.

By the age of 3, I knew that he was really smart.  He had figured out how to open any child safety gate before he was a year old.  He didn't take his first steps until his first birthday, but he could pull himself up and unlatch the gate to get to something he wanted.  He had such a good ear for music.  He could mimic almost any song and he played tunes on his little piano that really sounded like the nursery songs that we played each night.  He taught himself to read when he was three years old.  What parent wouldn't believe that they were raising the next Einstein?  (It's interesting that I saw Einstein in him, knowing what I know now.) 

By the time he was 4, I was at my wits end.  I couldn't figure out how to manage his behavior.  He was always at least two steps ahead of me.  He did the most unexpected things. When he was frustrated, he would bang his head against the floor or wall and leave huge bumps all over his head.  He would get into the cupboards or the refrigerator and dump all of the food out on the ground.  He would scream bloody murder when I took him to the grocery store and I couldn't stop him from climbing out of the cart and dashing for the door.  I left many a full cart of groceries in the isle of a grocery store as I chased him out the door and, failing to soothe him, drove home. I tried all the tricks.  I watch the Nanny show on T.V now and I laugh at her thinking that she has all of the answers.  I taught pre-school for years before I had my own children.  I thought I had all the answers too.

He was diagnosed at the age of 4 as having ADHD and possible Oppositional Defiant Disorder.  I know that I questioned that diagnosis because I didn't feel as if his behavior was deliberate, but the psychologist was the professional, so I went with it and did as I was told.  It didn't work.  But after a while I just thought that I must not have been doing it right. I must be an incompetent mom, because nothing I tried worked.  He was officially diagnosed with Aspergers at about the age of 13.  Over the next few years I slowly grew to accept what that diagnosis really meant.  It didn't mean that he wasn't smart, he was.  But, in his case, it did mean that he would probably always struggle with anxiety.  I learned that my dreams for him might not be ones that he could achieve.  It was more important that he do a job that he enjoyed, in an environment that was comfortable for him.  It has been difficult to let go of my vision for him and to allow him to make a new vision for himself.  I know that "all parents go through this", but I want to say "It's not the same!"  I have another child and this is NOT the same.

I am incredibly proud of my 19 year old son.  He found a job that allows him to work form home 3 days a week.  He goes to the office twice a week.  He loves what he does and he has friends at work.  He has a girlfriend, who is Spectrumy herself, but it works for them.  He did all of this on his own, without very little input from me.  This is a success story.  By lowering my expectations, I was able to celebrate the victories.  If I had continued to believe that he was going to save the world, I would have always wanted him to be someone that he wasn't destined to be.  I would have always felt as if I wasn't doing a good enough job of being a mom.  I worry that a new generation of Spectrum parents are going to feel as if they are not doing a good enough job because they can't figure out their child's "special" talent and develop it for the good of society.  I see this new show "Touch" as another "Rainman", attempting to put our kids into a box and make meaning where there is none.  I know that is probably not what they meant to do, but I can't help but resent it at least a little bit.  I already have co-workers asking me if I've seen the show and wanting to know what I think about it.  I'm not sure if I can explain my feelings to someone who hasn't been through what I have.

I have a poster from my best friend who has walked in my shoes that says :
 "Tied together by stuff too difficult to explain to someone new."

She get's it.  

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