I am almost done reading the book that I blogged about yesterday, Look Me In the Eye.
Once I got past the nonsense of his life with KISS (seriously, how could that NOT be nonsense), I really did find the book extremely helpful in understanding how Aspergians think. The author is extremely gifted at being able to articulate exactly how his thought process works, and it's actually rather hilarious, especially given that I myself live an Aspergian.
One chapter that helped me the most is titled "Becoming Normal". I wish I could just copy the whole thing here for you, but copyright laws prevent that, so I will try to summarize:
He believes there is a continuum from autism to Asperger's to normal: children who are turned completely inward from birth all the way to children who are turned completely outward. Then there are the kids in the middle, who can focus their minds inward and also have some ability to relate to the outside world.
He talks about his exceptional mathematical abilities and his lack of interpersonal skills. Then he says that as he has gotten older, his interpersonal skills have increased, but he feels that his mathematical skills have diminished some. He says "Later, there were periods where my ability to turn toward other people and the world increased by leaps and bounds. At those times, my intense powers of focused reasoning seemed to dimish." (p. 208)
He believes that there are some autistic children who are mid to high functioning who "do not receive the proper stimulation and end up turning inward to such an extent that they can't function in society, even though they may be incredibly brilliant in some narrowly defined field,"
He then goes on to say that he believes that ages 4 to 7 where the most critical for his social development because he "cried and hurt because (he) could not make friends." He says "Fortunately, I had enough satisfactory exchanges with intelligent grown-ups ...to keep me wanting to interact...I can easily imagine a child who did not have any satisfying exchanges withdrawing from people entirely." (p.209)
"I suspect that grown-ups drew me out enough as a child to keep me engaged and on a path that led to being functional in society. Adults were able to deal with my conversational limitations better than children. They could follow my disconnected responses, and they were more likely to show interest in anything I said, no matter how bizarre. Had I not been drawn out by interested grown-ups, I might well have drifted farther into the world of autism. I might have ceased to communicate." (p.210)
As I read these words that I've copied above, I couldn't help feeling so incredibly thankful.
1. That Tyler was not born completely turned in. I hear the stories of mothers who have never heard their child say "I love you, Mom" and my heart just breaks. I am so incredibly thankful that Tyler IS attached to me, in fact I am pretty much his strongest anchor, and that he is not afraid or unable to express his love for me.
2. I am so thankful that God directed our path so that I can have Tyler at home with me right now. Do not misunderstand me: I am, and will, always be a huge supporter of GCA. However, home with a loving adult who takes the time to steer Tyler towards functionality is a much better option for him. I am his advocate and can take the time to do the things that he needs to do to achieve success. When I look back on this road we've traveled, I am so amazed at things that were put into place years ago that now enable us to be right were we need to be.
3. I am so thankful and grateful for the adults in Tyler's life who go out of their way to make the effort to interact with Tyler: Bro Burbank, Cheri Bagato, Sara Kash, Bro Salas, the Muths, the Tarpleys, Matt and Stephanie Garrett, and others that I'm forgetting. You really are making a difference.
Finally, I know that I've been challenged to look outside my world and make an effort to interact more with those around me, especially the ones who may otherwise be ignored because they are a little "weird". We may never know the difference that we make in someone else's life.
Interact, interact, interact!!