Even when you’ve lived with a child who has Asperger’s Syndrome for 25 years, you still get surprised from time to time. This was one of those times.
People who have Asperger’s Syndrome have a lot of difficulty expressing their feelings and understanding how other people feel. Their emotional wiring is just different than the rest of us. They also don’t tend to think ahead very much and their organizational skills are not strong. They also aren’t likely to show initiative very often.
So it was a surprise when my son did all those things yesterday.
As I’ve noted before, my parents have a booth at the Woodstock Fair in Woodstock, CT on Labor Day weekend. For many years, my son has helped them with this. Last year we reminded him well in advance to ask for the time off from work so he wouldn’t have a conflict. He had told my mother he would help this year if he wasn’t working. On Monday he asked us when the fair was and my husband, not thinking in AS terms, said next weekend. My son, who always thinks in AS terms, figured that the weekend coming was “this weekend” and the weekend after that was “next weekend.” Oops!
It wasn’t until late Monday night, after he spoke with his grandmother, that he realized “next weekend” was “this weekend.” (Confused yet?). I know, you haven’t seen the initiative or emotional stuff yet.
Tuesday he decided, on his own, to go into work and talk to the woman who does the schedules to see what he could do to get as many days off for the weekend as he could. By the grace of God, he arrived just as they were working on the schedule.
He proceeded to explain why he needed the time – to help his grandparents who are too old and not healthy enough to do it on their own. He must have done a great job, because he managed to not only not get scheduled for Sun & Mon, but he got Fri and Sat, which he had already be scheduled for, off as well. Actually, he got Thurs and Sat off. When he got home, he called his grandmother to let her know the good news and realized that he had been scheduled for Thurs, not Fri. So again, he took it upon himself to call work and explain his error, so that he got Fri off. He told me he was going to verify all this when he went to work tonight.
I was amazed! It’s a great thing for any kid to do for his grandparents, but for an AS kid, it rises to a whole new level of great. When he told me what he had done, I gave him a great big hug and told him how proud I was to be his mother. I don’t know how, but I guess I did something right. I sometimes think that being diagnosed with AS at 19 was one of those “win some/lose some” occurrences. It did mean that he didn’t get the services and educational assistance that might have made his school times better. But it also meant that, being ignorant of the causes of my son’s eccentricities, I treated him like an “average” kid and expected him to do the things “average” kids do. And so, with love and support, he was pushed to keep making slow but sure progress. I’m sure the experts would not agree with my theory, but in my heart I believe it worked here.
I don’t expect my son to have these amazing, surprising moments every day. But I savor them when they happen. And thank God he keeps making small steps.