Tuesday, January 26, 2016

More than a Diagnosis

Recently, a suspicion that I've long harbored has been confirmed. (I hate it when I'm right) I've recently learned that I have a child on the autism spectrum--Aspergers, or ASD Level 1.

Bear with me, please. I'm still learning about this, still processing, still trying to put all the pieces together. And my journey is not the same as yours, so we're not going to agree on all points.

This is my daughter. She's fourteen. She's amazing. She taught herself to read music, to play the clarinet, to play the harp, is learning the guitar, has an imagination that can really, truly take you places. She's brilliant--I mean scary smart.

She is also willful, stubborn, opinionated, adamant, exasperating, frustrating, and utterly unique. She has a difficult time making friends, and a hard time understanding social queues or recognizing the need for observing certain social rituals. She can be incredibly inappropriate at times, and not understand why she's alienated you. She also has a very unique way of looking at the world, and that has led to some memories she absolutely swears are true, but never happened. I cite a conversation she had with her uncle last year. For weeks, she repeated to me that he'd told her he'd come back in a year--and even took her to the calendar that hangs in our kitchen to show her the dates. But a brief conversation with my brother proved he'd never done such a thing. But, to her, it happened, and nothing will shake her conviction of that. Even though she's wrong about it.

I've known for some time now that this particular child of mine required special handling. Not everybody "gets" her, and consequently she's been bullied, teased, ostracized, and criticized--and not just by her peers. We're talking adults too. I'm not mad. I don't blame anyone, because nobody knows better than I do how frustrating she can be. And I fully recognize I'm far more invested in her as a person than her drama coach, her church leaders, or her teachers. They don't have to put the effort into understanding her that I've had to do, because their interactions with her are relatively brief.

The Asperger's stereotype is a person who is a genius, a savant, but who can't conquer basic social behaviors. (They don't call it Asperger's anymore, btw, it's all part of the autism spectrum now) In many ways, this is my daughter. But she's far more than just a stereotype. She's a human being who has to learn how to make her way in this crazy, mixed up world. She's a beautiful child of God, just like you and me. She's my daughter, and like every other mother in my shoes, I will be her biggest advocate.

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