Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Breakthrough

I've mentioned before that Big Guy's diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome wasn't officially given until he was quite old; nearly seventeen.

There were many reasons why this happened, the main one being that Asperger's Syndrome was a little known diagnosis 15 years ago when Big Guy was getting ready to enter the public school system.  As a result, he was misdiagnosed with ADD.  Medication helped his focus during school, but did nothing to address his other behaviors.

While I'm glad we were finally able to get the correct diagnosis for our eldest child, I feel it came at a time when we'd lost many opportunities for intervention.  Many of his behaviors became so ingrained that it's been a challenge to change them.  Big Guy also resented receiving this diagnosis, especially at a time when his self identity was just beginning to develop.  Whenever I tried discussing the topic of Asperger's or autism in general, he would grow very defensive and uncommunicative.  It's been a struggle, to say the least.

However, something happened recently that makes me believe Big Guy has started to accept his diagnosis.

About a week ago, the other family members were gone and I invited Big Guy to go out to eat with Little Guy and me.  As we pulled out of the driveway, he casually said, "I finally figured out why it bothers me so much when you change your mind about our family schedule; it's because of my Asperger's Syndrome.  I was reading about it online, and the article said that individuals with AS have a hard time with unexpected changes."

I was stunned; you could have literally knocked me over with a Q-tip.  Had my son just a) admitted he had Asperger's Syndrome  b) actually researched his diagnosis and c) was now talking about it openly with me?
I tried not to overreact or make a big deal about this development - it was really difficult, as I wanted to shout "hallelujah" at this breakthrough I'd waited so long for.  Instead, we began a 30 minute discussion about Asperger's Syndrome and how it impacts his life.  I asked my son if he'd told any friends of his diagnosis - the answer was one.  He said that he's told the others about certain "quirks" of his, but not that they're part of an autism spectrum disorder.  I asked Big Guy if he's bothered by having the Asperger diagnosis, to which he replied, "It doesn't bother me...but I don't like telling other people because they seem to make a big deal out of it."  I went a little deeper, asking my son if he views Asperger's Syndrome as a disability.  He thought a moment, then explained, "Perhaps in some ways.  But in others, I feel it gives me an advantage, such as my near-perfect memory."  We talked about his late diagnosis, and I shared my regret that it hadn't come sooner. 

All in all, it was a very open and productive conversation.  While I don't expect Big Guy to run around sharing his diagnosis with everyone, I feel he's finally come to terms with it and now accepts that it's part of who he is.  I'm hoping this acceptance will allow my son to continue to better understand his behavior and open the door for him to seek help and support when he needs it.


Shawnee said...

So.... I've been kind of emotional lately anyway, but this really did me in! Thanks a lot. :) That is wonderful! Thanks for sharing sis :)

The Andra Family said...

This made me cry as well, and I wasn't even emotional today like Shawn. I love my nephew!