How I Helped My Child With Aspergers Navigate This Planet
Imagine you moved to a foreign country where you didn’t speak the language. You didn’t understand the customs. You were shunned by the people. You couldn’t get a job. You couldn’t make friends. There is no one to decipher for you or tell you what are the social norms and what they expect of you.
How would you feel? Overwhelmed? Scared? Lonely? Frustrated? Anxious? Angry?
You’d probably feel as if you came from another planet. Not of this earth. This is how a person with Aspergers feels in their everyday world around them.
Not All People With Aspergers Present the Same
What is a person with Asperger's world like? It is pretty tough to describe. They can present polar opposite traits at both ends of the personality spectrum and still be diagnosed with the same affliction.
Below are 12 possible personality traits of a person with Aspergers representing both extremes of the spectrum. Any or all of these presentations from both ends of the spectrum can be present in any one person.
Suffice to say that each of these personality traits of those with Aspergers is at the top or bottom 20% of scale, far from the neurotypical who hover mainly down the middle.
An Asperger's personality could be or express;
- Introvert or extrovert
- Over reactive or under reactive
- Hypersensitive or under-sensitive
- Craves light or sensitive to light
- Loves touch or rejects touch
- Respects personal space or doesn’t understand personal space
- Stares intently or avoids eye contact
- Overly empathetic or has no empathy
- Normal gait or abnormal gait
- Excellent fine motor skills or poor motor skills
- Bully or victim
- High functioning or low functioning
6 Common Similarities Seen in Most Aspies
The following traits appear to be present with most persons with Aspergers. This is evidenced by my own personal family observations and those outside my family that I have observed and worked with as a therapist over 35 years.
- Need for extreme logic to accept anything, from why one needs to shower, to you said you would be here in a minute and it is 67 seconds, therefore you lied. There is no grey area in their world, just black and white.
- Obsessions : Specifically, most have an area of interest they are not only interested in but are fanatically obsessed about. Most will be brilliant in their area of interest, perhaps even a savant. Many are extremely successful as adults in this focused area. There is little or no interest in anyone else’s pursuits.
- Oblivious to the needs of others and appears very egocentric. Not present most of the time as they are lost in their thoughts or obsession.
- To the point : They typically have no patience for small talk and do not understand jokes or sarcasm. They have no filter as a neurotypical would have and call it as they see it.
- Difficulty with change : They typically suffer from a lot of internal anxiety and present depression, frustration, and fear. Struggling with shifting gears when plans change is a very typical trait.
- Difficulty reading social cues because they are not logical to them. We know them as the games people play to go along to get along where aspies do not see the point.
The reason for a wide disparity in skill set is because we inherit gifts like music ability, athletic ability, fine motor skills which also are part of the mix that makes up an aspie. While we may inherit being an aspie from one parent we also inherit the other parent’s athletic ability as these skills are not necessarily affected by brain wiring.
Aspie is short for Aspergers, named after Dr. Asperger from Germany. It wasn’t until the late 80’s that his work was translated into English and his theories came to North America. Before his work was understood, these children were labeled in the 50'w as lazy and trouble makers. In the ’80s when I was raising kids, they were labeled ADD, ADHD, oppositional, bipolar, and a host of other names and drugs to follow.
I knew my youngest son was different. He reached all his milestones, was verbally advanced but had a horrible case of separation anxiety. I figured he would grow out of it once he started kindergarten. Boy was I wrong!
His Kindergarten Teacher Asked, “What Planet He Was He From?”
That was what the teacher said to me in the first parent/teacher conference. Was she joking? What was she trying to say? Was he needy? Did he not get along with others? She wasn’t being clear, at least not to me. I was starting to think she couldn’t pinpoint his issue or give me concrete examples other than to leave me remembering her asking me “What planet was he from?” Those words rolled over and over in my brain.
I knew he was at least of average intelligence and he loved numbers and would go on to be a great video player as well as have excellent hand-eye coordination. Still, in my mind, I kept thinking why did he burn himself on the stove three times before he figured it out? I wonder why he didn’t remember after the first time, risk vs. reward.
My Aha Moment
The next day out of sheer frustration I asked him, although it was more talking to myself in front of him. “What is your problem” — more rhetorical than anything else. Out of the mouth of babes, my four year old looked at me and said: “Mommy I don’t understand people’s mouths.”
Oh my God, I froze, looked up at him and knew exactly what he meant. Using language he could understand I was able to discern that he didn’t know what the teacher wanted from him, what her words meant and when he did do what he thought she wanted she would get annoyed. He could tell something was wrong but had no idea what it was.
Sometimes in the morning after a bad night, I would tell him not to bother me because I was cranky. He thought maybe that’s it. Maybe she had a bad night like his mother and was cranky. I told him I understood what he meant and I would do everything I could to help him. However, it would be another 20 years before I really understood what he meant and how he fits into this world.
The Next 20 Years Were an Exploration Journey
I would spend the next year doing all the recommended testing, diagnosing and listening to all the experts who did their best with the knowledge they had at the time. They gave him all the usual labels of the eighties and recommended Ritalin. When I asked what the drug was for and what were the side effects I knew they had either the wrong diagnosis or the wrong medication. They said it was to help him focus and basically sit still. The side effect was he would lose his appetite. That did not make sense to me and was not logical. He loved numbers and video games and could sit still for hours razor-focused. He was also very thin and could not afford to lose his appetite. I refused to give him the medication and my journey for answers continued.
Searching for the Answer
How do you find the answer to the problem when the professionals didn’t have the right questions to ask?
I decided to go another route and was introduced to a Naturopath and energy healer whose modalities included diet and balancing energy systems. He responded well to the treatment. But it still didn’t address how to function in school, making friends, and most importantly “understanding people’s mouths” which included his family.
Figuring Out Solutions
The first symptom I needed to deal with was his anxiety. I recorded my own meditation with music that he listened to every night. I realized that his intention was not to be op-positional, egocentric, or argumentative. He just wanted to cope with a world that didn’t make sense.
I knew it was never going to make sense to him because so much in life is not logical or black and white. Inference is something that cannot really be taught. It just is. Aspie’s lacks the ability to inference. Therefore, the solution didn’t have to make sense, it just had to make sense in his reality.
And then it hit me flashing in front of my eyes what planet he was from!!!!!!
Your Not From Earth and That’s Ok
When trying to help your aspie understand their world and how to navigate it one has to make sense to them on their level of learning and understanding. Generally, a no-nonsense direct approach works the best. It is very black and white. No wiggle room or inference.
One such approach I used that was successful was to acknowledge that he is okay but he came into a world that isn’t okay. As long as they are going to visit and share the same space with others then they have to learn how to cope for the duration of their visit.
Yes, it’s important that we advocate for our children and fight the system where we can. Kids like this tend to get bullied and we want to fix it for them with for example the principal of the school. But that doesn’t do the child any good as they haven’t learnt to fix it themselves. One needs to work with to give them a fishing rod and the tools to cope rather than just give them the fish.
To that end, if you accept that we come into this life with gifts and challenges and to learn lessons, you can rise above the lessons and find some joy and peace in our journey called life. Being an aspie is one of those lessons. This is the tool or fishing rod I gave my son to understand life.
Welcome Travelers to Earth
Your stay here will be both frustrating, exhilarating, and fraught with rich experiences. Should you accept this assignment your name tag will read aspie. This name tag means gifted and challenged. Although you will legally have this name until you leave earth once you understand earthlings language, games they play, rules they live by, you too can join in the game.
Thousands have made this pilgrimage before you and have started to make inroads with earthlings waking them up from a deep trance. A lot of earthlings describe their life prior to meeting the travelers as having a veil or a mask covering them from seeing clearly.
Here Are Some of the Teachings I Gave My Son to Help Him Cope with the 'Foreign’ Society He Lives in:
- They are not ready to see the truth. . .to be authentic—even though you are. They will get there perhaps on your next visit. You are a guest on their planet now to just observe and follow their rules until they are ready. For now, they are the boss.
- When asked questions, answer positively to anything that makes them smile (remember you were shown what a facial smile looks like). Remember you are a guest on their planet. Once their veil is removed they will be ready to see and hear the truth.
- They are more interested in hearing their own voice—oblige them. Offer a few sentences about you and go back to hearing about them. Smile—when their veil is removed they will be ready to hear you and what life is like where you are from.
- While visiting earth you might find their rituals of bathing, combing hair, brushing teeth uncomfortable, but as a visitor, you are here to observe and study their ways. Once you return to your planet you can revert back to just thinking and it’s done. Their veil is slowing them down but they will get there and will be shocked at how much time they wasted at not being clear. Have patience while visiting.
I would go over this ritual every day after school giving him a chance at releasing his frustrations of the day. We would do plays to reenact the day's events and interactions as well as draw pictures of how the earth would look like if everyone’s veil was removed. And every night he would go to sleep to the sound of my voice reassuring he is safe, he is loved and one day others would see what I see when their veil was removed.
Of course, that was not enough to navigate the skills necessary for a successful life. I did enroll him in a social skills class, made sure he had special education classes, figured out his special gift and made sure he played baseball and basketball to feel successful. Introduced him to yoga and modeling and commercials which he loved. I encouraged him to do things he wanted while I held my breath, like get his driver's license and traveled to Europe by himself at 17. Most importantly, I encouraged him to do something every day for his body, mind and spirit.
This he could accept, that although he had to follow society’s rules he knew that I knew he was right, he was being heard.
And Now I Will Reveal My Mask
As I hinted earlier, I knew as soon as he said “I don’t understand people’s mouths,” I knew what he meant. This is exactly how I felt when I was a kid. I felt like I wasn’t really from here. I used to escape in the lake, lie backwards underwater for minutes waiting to be rescued by my real family and take me home.
12 years ago I was reading a story about something called Aspergers. It was the first I ever even heard the word. Of course, I heard the word autism, but didn’t really see the connection and still don’t. I still think Aspergers should be in a category all it’s own.
After reading through the article I heard myself screaming, that’s it! That is the name of what my son has. I was excited, I phoned him but he was not interested. He was a grown man and didn’t believe in labels. By this time his mentors were Tony Robbins and Joel Olsten.
After reading more, I realized I understood my son intuitively because we were so much alike but yet quite different. I read how a girl aspie mimics other girls to fit in and are different in their own ways as well.
There it was. I realized I was an aspie. It explained so much around my growing up and experiences. It was a light bulb that went off.
When my son refused to get tested I decided I would. They claim that it is inherited and I knew for sure it wasn’t from my husband, who is classic neurotypical. I did the two-day extensive test at a clinic specializing in kids and adults on the spectrum
It was a resounding yes. It almost felt like when I found out I was pregnant. I was happy to be pregnant and happy to know why I feel and act the way I do.
Everything happens for a reason and giving birth and raising an aspie led me to discover my exceptionalism which is as an intuitive healer. Everything I studied to help my son I developed and used in my private practice. I developed my own modality to balance other people and read behind their mask and channel their karma. I wrote a book and guided meditation (whose origin began when I made a meditation to help my son sleep ).
We are all here for a reason and we all have something to give. I’m often asked how is my son today. Aspie is not a sickness or something you grow out of. Having said that, he is now 40, married with two beautiful children and running his own business with eight employees. I like to describe him as perfectly imperfect just like the rest of us.
The journey continues until we return to our home planet.
For further information on children on the spectrum, I recommend My Home Strategy Secrets by Kerri-Anne Stocks—a real mother, a real family, real situations.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.