Thursday, November 8, 2012

My latest rant and some Asperger related books I am interested in

While relishing in my elated emotions of having the president that I voted for re-elected, I realize something very profound.  I always talk about how having an African American president gives me hope that my sons can someday pursue this office. It’s as if President Obama broke the glass ceiling that once prevented minorities from holding the highest, most significant, position in the free world. I think the future will afford my children with many opportunities that their grandparents could never have hoped for. I know that my oldest son will be able to pursue all of his dreams free from racial barriers. But, I realize in all my wishful thinking that I have not had the same dreams for Marty, my youngest, that I have for Max, the NT. It’s as if I never considered that my second born would be neurotypical, much less explore the ambitions and life goals that most humans strive for. I spent most of my pregnancy with Marty wishing for a girl because I rationalized that the probability of a girl having Aspergers was far less than that of a boy born to an Aspergers’ male. Years of researching and reading studies about Autism and Aspergers had me convinced that one or more of my children born to their Aspie father would also have Aspergers. I theorize that men with Aspergers have a 25-50% chance of having a child with Aspergers. Similar to children born to parents with the trait for Sickle Cell Anemia; even though the parents only carry the trait, the chance of the parents having a child born with the debilitating disease Sickle Cell is around 1 in 4.  

This elevated genetic factor is not the case with classic Autism though. I believe that those with Aspergers and co-occuring disorder like ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, ODD, or OCD will likely pass one or more of those traits on to their children. I also think, somehow, one or more parent [NT or Aspie] having an autoimmune disorder is connected with Aspergers/Autism and may strengthen the heredity factor.

With all that being said, I really never had a chance to go through those feelings of losing the dream of having a “normal” child.  I knew that my second son would be affected by Aspergers in some form or fashion. From his very first day on earth, he was different. I just knew it. When he was just a few days old, he had a fixed frown on his face…was he contemplating his life as a newborn? Lol. Surely, he wasn’t mad. But, as he became a toddler, he became angry…argumentative and defensive. He didn’t even have a vocabulary of words, but found a way to defend his position using baby babble.  It was hilarious to witness.

Hopefully, Science will catch-up with the increasing numbers of individuals dealing with Autism and design a test to screen for Aspergers and Autism during infancy. When my youngest was a baby, I found a study about tilting an infant to one side to identify possible Autism. If the baby followed the direction of the tilt without resistance or trying to pull themselves upright then they are suspected of having Autism. Well, that exercise does not work to identify Aspergers. I think Aspergers children are hyper focused early in life, they are rigid with their routines and preference for caregivers, and have fixed interest; even as infants  they don’t seem to desire much social activity other than the regular visits from the caregiver that they have formed an attachment too.

Any whoo, I wanted to recommend some books that I have found very enlightening and helpful. I became fascinated with the books by brothers Augusten Burroughs and John Elder Robison. Running with Scissors and Look Me in the Eyes, both are memoirs and both detail the brothers challenging lives growing up with parents suffering from mental illness. John has Aspergers Syndrome and suspects that his father is a fellow Aspie [as well as a former alchoholic]; his mother had a series of psychotic breaks that caused her to abandon her youngest son, Augusten, when he was 13. Incidentally, the mother, Margaret Robison, has her own memoir, The Long Journey Home, which revisits her painful childhood, failed marriage, and latent attempts to fulfill her life’s purpose [creative writing].  I think it is important to consider each family member’s own point of view to understand the dynamics of surviving a family with multiple mental health disorders.

In addition to reading the Robison family memoirs, I am also reading Quirky Kids, The ADD Answer and Asperger Answer Book, The Behavior Survival Guide for Kids and Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs. I just found out about a book for NT family members dealing with the emotional stress of having family members with ASD: Aspergers Syndrome and Adults: Is anybody listening? I am going to order it next week, and provide a review at a later date.  I will probably buy The Journal of Best Practices at some point, but because it is meant to support a functioning marriage between an NT and Aspie, I am really not as interested in reading it.

This is off topic, but worthy of mentioning. Last night, I verbalized that I needed to stop yelling so much at my youngest son, Marty. My oldest son was in ear shot, so he chimed in and agreed. Wow, thanks for making me feel worse about myself. Anyway, Max seems to think that I often yell at Marty when he is, "just trying to play and have fun." So, I reflect on this observation and conclude that the Aspie in Marty doesn't hold grudges or hold on to "stuff" like I do; he has the meltdown/super tantrum and he's over it. You see, after Marty has harassed me about going to the beach on a frigid day in the middle of November, I am wore out trying to explain why we can't travel over 300 miles to get to the beach on a school day. Throwing your sock and shoes around in the car isn't going to make me get your sandles and take you to the damn beach on a Wednesday night. Besides, I still haven't come down from the distess that he initiated while we were at dinner because he  [Marty] was furious about that Denny's was really just a restaurant and not a diner because I promised to take him to a diner. WTH. Then he insists on keeping his coat on the table and not besides him in the booth. And, why didn't I get him eggs with his meal. So, yeah, I am really annoyed by the time we get home and would prefer to be left alone for a moment and not sucked in to giggling at Marty's attempts at being humorous and saying, while laughing, "I am going to kill you in 5 minutes," chuckle, chuckle. Clearly, I have the 'frowny face' and not in the mood to watch Marty jump and do flips on my bed, "Get out!" and "Take your brother [Max] with you!" 

Luckily, Marty is really not affected my my negative mood, and only seems upset when I try to redirect him from his preferred activity. I think his ability to get over things quickly is a great buffer for his feelings. When he doesn't get his way or is confused or anxious about something...he has a tantrum and is done with it. However, If the same happens to me, I am thinking about it for the rest of the day. In fact, my stress over the situation might roll-over to the next day. I am going to learn a lesson from Marty's playbook and...just get over it! Marty doesn't set out to disrupt the event or ruin the family outing. He can't help that he likes predictability. So, as the adult, I need to consider these things and try to make his 'outings'  more predictable and less complex. Perhaps I should have asked him what was his version of a 'diner'. Would that have made his outing more pleasant? And why was he so adamant about going to the beach? Was this his way of escaping something...maybe he had a bad day at school. Why does he need to control everything? He wanted silence in the car; what the heck was that about? Oh well, I'll probably never know the answers to those question, but I do know that my little Aspie is happier when his environment is free from surprises and unforeseen obstacles.

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