Hearing a Practitioner announce that your child has Asperger's Syndrome can often leave parents feeling like they've been winded, and usually this feeling gets somewhat worse before it gets better. We can take a while to adjust our picture of our child's future to take into account his/her diagnosis. Most parents adjust their viewfinder fairly quickly though, and get on with the business of researching the condition and deciding which interventions, strategies and therapies are right for their child.
I know that's what it was like for our family - we just got busy with living our lives with Autism/Asperger's and coping with each challenge as it arose. Day to day stuff like going to school, speech therapy, occupational therapy, sibling support, psychologists, psychiatrists, social skills and behaviour management. Other than agreeing that we wanted our Aspie child to reach his fullest potential, to have friendships, to love and be loved, and to be happy and fulfilled we didn't really discuss how we "saw" his life unfolding. We didn't talk about how his life looked in the day to day.
Our journey with Asperger's has always been a conundrum - full of disparities. A journey of highs and lows; peaks and troughs! As a family we've soared on the back of great achievements and been utterly gutted by losses, or backward steps. Every time we "drop our guard" and think we can coast in neutral for a while, a challenge rears its head.
Through it all though, we've chosen to turn life's lemons into lemonade - we continue to choose to always focus on the positive and find the good in every situation. This works for us as a family. However it means that how we view our reality can be very different from how others perceive our lives.
From the outside looking in right now other's may see an unemployed, mid-twenties Asperger adult, who spends a lot of time in his room, on his computer or phone, and who goes out on weekends with his friends.
Our reality though is that our Aspie child is studying; doing freelance design work for 2 or 3 clients and being a really great friend. His two close friends have both faced extremely challenging situations this year and I'm proud of the way our son has thoughtfully and considerately supported them both. Being empathetic and putting others needs before his own is something we were told he'd never do. The energy he spent being such a supportive friend meant that there was little or none left for us, so we experienced a sullen, withdrawn and exhausted young man. As parents though, we felt this was a huge achievement - our Aspie son is learning life lessons in emotion and practising being selfless in a relationship. Lemons once again turned into lemonade.
The intricacies of relationships/friendships can take years for those with Asperger's to learn, but these skills are just as valuable as any other life skill. Dropping our expectations while our son was stretching and developing his relationship skills was something we both silently acknowledged as important, and it re-opened a discussion between us that began 20 years ago.... how we see our son's life unfolding. Thankfully we still agree that the most important aspect of our journey is to keep turning lemons into lemonade!
©Nelle Frances 2014