Two of our sons have Aspergers a developmental condition that is considered to be on the "high functioning" end of the Autism spectrum.
High functioning because they don't have the communication problems that children with Autism have. This is also a huge factor in why children who have Aspergers can go undetected for a long time.
You don't really know your child has this condition because they are very bright and to be honest there isn't really anything wrong with them, until they are in daycare, school or in social settings.
I was able to pick up something wasn't quite right in the younger of my two boys with this condition from an early age because he is a twin. When our twins were about 6 months I started noticing differences. Usually at this age a baby is able to hold their head up and grab onto things, hold on to things and sit up on their own without falling over. These are normal milestones for babies between 6-8 months.
His twin sister was hitting all these with ease and at about 9 months she was crawling around and then walking at 10 months old with no problems. At first I wasn't worried because he was the smaller twin at birth by one whole pound, he had very low glucose and trouble breathing when he was born. This isn't that un usual with twins there is always a bigger one and there can be some problems at birth. He came right over the first night and there weren't any concerns about him other than feeding him up so he can put on weight.
In my mind this was probably the cause of him being a bit slower than his sister, because he did eventually do all these things he was just a month behind. So you know everyone is different and being the mother of 3 children already I know they all do things in their own sweet time.
However when they turned one I put them in Kohanga Reo which is our native (Maori) language learning centre for under 5's here in Aotearoa. He started showing unusual behaviours he would cry a lot and when I say a lot I mean all the damn time. The situations and things that would set him off where vast and varied. When he couldnt get his own way or when other children done things like sing the song wrong, put a toy somewhere he thought it shouldn't go. He couldnt eat his sandwiches unless they were cut in triangles and all sorts of quirky things of this nature.
He is also very clumsy and literally trips over nothing. High pitched sounds and flashing lights would make him scared and he would scream and cry. The crying part I believe was because he couldn't articulate in words what was wrong. And to be honest unless you are trained to notice the little tell tale signs that there is something a little bit off his behaviours can be deemed as naughty, annoying and disruptive.
This made me even more determined to get a diagnosis so when he did hit school he wasn't just put in the naughty kid basket. I knew he wasnt a naughty kid, he needed a little bit more effort in explaining to him what was going on. Like I said before he was and is exceptionally clever. He picks up things very fast, he has an excellent memory and he has a natural love of maths and patterns.
One thing that really helped with his condition was changing his diet. Taking foods out saw a
huge change in his mood swings and behaviours.
We removed processed foods especially foods that had anything in the ingredients that had E100-199. E is the code for colouring additives and colours are assigned a number between 100-199. Refined sugars was another one, fizzy drinks, juice, milky drinks all those sugary drinks directed at your kids. Sugary cereal like nutrigrain, coco pops you all know the kind Im talking about.
We added probiotics to his daily nutrition needs along with lots of fruit, vegetables and all the good stuff. It doesnt take long for your kids to acclimatise to these foods and its so worth it, it's the difference between a howling, emotional wreck, bouncing off the wall kid or reasonably "normal" one whatever your normal maybe. Lots of studies suggest that there is a huge relationship between autism and digestive abnormalities and if all it takes is to give my kids a probiotic every day to help them out then thats what Im going to do.
Once we learnt about Aspergers and signs and symptoms associated with this condition, we realised that one of our older sons has Aspergers to. He was 12 at that time and looking back, realising and seeing all the little quirks he has always had helped us understand him a lot better.
He was exceptionally clever and bright as a toddler he learnt how to spell and write his name when he was about 16 months old. He was able to recognise words and read by the time he was two. He was exceptional at putting puzzles together and he had/has a photographic memory. He learnt all these things with very little effort and well we just thought we had ourselves a little brain box and well we did, I mean do.
Everything was great until he started school, he got bullied a lot which we didn't quite understand because he was a friendly kid. You could take him to the park and he would make friends very easily and it was not unusual to find him directing kids to build castles and all sorts of elaborate things.
Needless to say Primary school was very hard for him (us,me) he didnt have a lot of friends in his class or in the school and he spent a lot of time in the library. There was nothing we could do about him not being able to make friends. The only thing that made it OK was that he was OK with it, he didn't really care or worry that no one would play with him. He actually didn't notice that any of this was going on and I felt comfort that he didn't suffer at all from it. I mean this kind of thing scars you for life, you read about it all the time, some adults are still dealing with childhood trauma dealt to them by school bullies and no kids wanting to invite them to Birthday parties.
One of the biggest signs or symptoms of Asperger's is they have huge difficulties in some social interactions and their inability to read social cues or lack of understanding them. My son was one of the cleverest kids I knew but he lacked common sense and he was often so annoying. He did not understand that its not really a good thing to tell a girl that she shouldn't wear the shorts, dress, pants that she has on because they are too small for her and her butt is hanging out. In his mind he is doing her a favour by letting her know and he didn't get why it would make her cringe and cry from embarrassment.
I have so many stories like the one above it's not funny and funny all at the same time, because while he maybe right somethings are just better left unsaid.
His lack of understanding or caring about social status or hierarchy that is rampant in schools has also made him a true hero for some of his peers in different situations.
I was very proud of him one day when he stood up against the bullies in his class that were picking on a young girl because she had her period. This was in middle school and he didn't think anything of it but he made an impact on his class and his teacher and the ring leader lost her power.
I have had friends congratulate me because of awards he has received in assemblies for Maths, leadership and all sorts of things and I know nothing about them. When I have asked him about it he looks at me blankly and then say's "oh yeah"
talk about frustrating and making me look like a bad parent.
He's in highschool now and he has lots of friends that are all geeky and quirky just like him and even though in my own opinion he had a bit of a rough patch in Primary and middle school he has survived this long without anyone knowing including himself that he has Asperger's.
I want to add that children with Aspergers are loving, my two boys love cuddling up, they love hugs and they love babies. They are drawn to babies when they see them they want to go up and play with them kiss them hug them, take them home with us. They are always friendly and they never seek out to hurt others purposefully, the world is full of people with Aspergers and I am so grateful to have these two exceptional humans in my life.
I would love to hear from other parents or people who have this condition?
Tell me your stories, your coping mechanisms.
This my 6 year old CJ who wants to grow up and play Rugby for the All Blacks and loves Kickboxing.