Friday, September 24, 2010

Pushback on School, Asperger's and the Future


We knew this was going to be a difficult transition for our son, going back to public school after six years of home school.  He's been pushing back on us quite a bit lately.  He's angry with us for putting him in this new situation.  It's a whole new world for him, and for us.  Doing homework  has been his biggest struggle so far - that is, getting it all done in a timely fashion.  Some nights he's "on" and works through it without much help or supervision from us.  Other nights, he's unfocused and just plain unwilling to work, and we have to sit on him.  I find that to be totally frustrating, because what should be a simple assignment then turns into a prolonged, time consuming PITA for all of us.  Last night was one of those nights.  I'm not going to go through the whole saga here, but I will say that setting boundaries and sticking to them is the hardest part of parenting.  And, consequences are a bear.  Our son is learning that personal responsibility isn't easy, and that the consequences for not being responsible aren't fun at all.  Hopefully next week will be smoother for all of us.

I think this is a characteristic of most people with Aspergers:  they are very all or nothing about life.  Things are black or white, very good or very bad, way up or way down - there isn't much middle ground for them. They dislike surprises, and changes from what they expect to happen are seldom welcome.  Equilibrium and contentment are hard for them to find, and almost impossible for them to hold on to.  I find that very difficult to live with, since I'm a more "middle of the road" person most of the time, avoiding the extremes when I can.  I guess my philosophy of life is "Make the best of it," no matter what happens.  All this drama, all the fuss and bother, all the control-freak-ness of someone who craves and needs predictability and routine is really hard to live with.  Life IS change, but I can't just say, "Get over yourself and DEAL WITH IT!" to them.  Well, I can, and I have, but that doesn't even compute for them, really, so I try not to say it any more.


I try to have compassion for people with AS, because if it's difficult for me to live with them, imagine how hard it is to BE them.  To live in a world where other people just don't make sense, where people seem to thrive on upsetting their routine and expectations, where every relationship is an ever-changing minefield of unwritten rules and expectations, where it's scary to interact with strangers because you never know what they'll say or do - that's a frightening place to be.  No wonder people with AS often act out their anger and frustration, verbally (or sometimes otherwise).  And, no wonder other ("neurotypical") people often don't understand them and get annoyed and upset with their "selfish" behavior.

And yet, I can't help but think that seeing the world differently is their gift as well.  How many great thinkers and inventors, artists and musicians, doctors and scientists through history have had Asperger's Syndrome?  I would bet you everything I own that Thomas Edison had AS.  Bill Gates is reputed to have AS.  I'm sure there are dozens more famous people, and many thousands of people in all walks of life that have it.  How often have they been misunderstood and put down for their differences?  On one hand it makes me sad, to think of the struggles that will face our son through his life (especially in relationships), and on the other hand, I know that the Lord doesn't make mistakes, and that there's a purpose for his way of seeing life through a different lens.  I hope and pray that we can help him find his way through his teen and college years, and into a job or career that will be perfect for him, while giving him the tools to make friends and form healthy relationships.  What more can any parents hope for?