Ian is my #1 grandchild. He was born in Metarie, LA, on February 10, 1998. He’s 12 years old.
Ian has borderline Asberger’s Syndrome which is on the Autism spectrum. He is mainlined in school and was on the honor roll the last couple of years.
It’s tough for people who don’t have close contact with someone with Asberger’s to understand exactly what the problem is. For starters, kids with Asberger’s have VERY advanced vocabularies, which lead adults who interact with them to believe they are very advanced and much smarter than other kids. They often have fairly high IQs, partially because the IQ tests are based on verbal skills. They may, and often do, have problems like AD-HD and dyslexia and it’s difficult to cope with any of these problems separately.
The major problem with folks with Asberger’s is that they have difficulty connecting with other people. They really don’t understand that the things they are thinking and feeling are not thought and felt by everyone else. Because they think everyone is thinking and feeling the same thing, they assume that any differences they see in other people’s actions are deliberate insults to them. They also are highly rule oriented, and feel like anyone who disobeys what they understand the rules to be are deliberately insulting them.
For instance, several years ago Ian and his father were attending “Donut Day” at his school. Parents were invited to have “Donuts for Breakfast” with the kids. The rule was that each child was allowed to take one donut. When Ian saw one of the boys in his class taking a second donut, he lost it! He was ready to confront the kid and make him put the second donut back. His father stopped him and offered Ian his donut, so that now Ian would have two donuts, too. But no, that wasn’t what Ian wanted. He didn’t want another donut for himself. He just didn’t want the other kid to have a second because “…the rule said – one donut each.”
Folks with Asberger’s also are usually one-track-minded. This can also lead the uniniated to think they are smarter or more advanced than they really are. If a child with Asberger’s becomes interested in dinosaurs, for instance, she will read, research, Google, etc., everything she can get her hands on about dinosaurs. Woe be unto the teacher who is ready to move on past dinosaurs and talk about the solar system. Until his interest in captured in another subject, he will only talk about, study about, read about dinosaurs. A prime example of this is the character of the 10-year-old boy on the TV show “Parenthood” (Watch the episode where Max is diagnosed on Hulu – http://www.bing.com/videos/watch/video/man-versus-possum/17wkgmwky )
Because of the one-track-mindedness inherent in Asberger’s, Ian has difficulty following complex instructions. If you give him instructions with single tasks, he’s highly proficient in following them, but if you say, “Go to your room and get your history book, and then bring it here, and read two chapters, and when you’re through reading, write a paragraph about what you read,” he will have a hard time getting past going to his room and getting his history book. It isn’t that he doesn’t want to read the chapters, or that he is reluctant to write his paragraph, he just can’t easily follow all the “and thens.” This is something else that folks need to remember when dealing with others with Asberger’s.
“Boston Legal” also explored adult Asberger’s in the character of Jerry Espenson. http://bostonlegal.wetpaint.com/page/Jerry+Espenson Jerry shows a very severe form of Asberger’s, but his success in legal research in attributable to, rather than adversely impacted by his Asberger’s.
In any case, Ian is learning to control his rages and his anti-social behavior and to embrace his Asberger’s. For the most part he is just like any other 12-year-old kid who loves video games, and science fiction TV and tormenting his younger sister. He’s a great kid, with a wonderful sense of humor and an interest in learning about his environment and history.
If you are interested in reading more about Asberger’s Syndrome, I highly recommend the book “Look Me in the Eye” by John Elder Robison. (Read a review of the book and see an interview with the author here. http://www.amazon.com/Look-Me-Eye-Life-Aspergers/dp/0307395987 )