No, I am not a bad mom.
Yes, that is my kid screaming and ripping papers off the walls of his first grade classroom.
Yes, he does hit, kick and bite his teachers. Yes, he’s stubborn and refuses to ask for help when needed. Yes, he is easily distracted by his own imagination. No, he won’t look you in the eye when you confront him about his behavior. In fact, he will hardly ever look you in the eye. No, he won’t sit still. Yes, he talks to himself—incessantly. Yes, he chews his fingers, and runs in circles.
He is also brilliant and gifted. He’s just turned seven in April and reads at an eighth grade level, with the IQ to match. This is the boy who told me, just yesterday, that I wasn’t allowed to nap because “Well then, who would mind the children?”
“Mind the children”? What a turn of phrase!
He loves mathematical concepts. Fractions, algebra, physics. He wants to invent an alternative rocket fuel (how could NASA possibly kill the space shuttle program? He must save it!). He also wants to invent a super-secret spy car.
“Like James Bond?”
He’s empathetic to the suffering of others.
“Kids are starving in Ethiopia, eat your dinner,” I said to him one night, half as a joke because my mother said it to me.
He told me, “Oh, I have a box in my room! We can get a Ziploc bag and pack the food and send it to them!”
This was a sweet, impractical idea, I thought. It took me almost 30 minutes to convince him it was said in jest. Irony and it’s related modes of communication, are often lost on him, and it’s not just because of his age.
He loves machines. He builds robots with his dad in the basement workshop. He is enraptured with the Discovery Chanel, and loves shows like “Max and Ruby” which is geared to ages two to three.
He is obsessed with trains, and has been since he was 18 months. His latest vehicular love is the Titanic. He’s fascinated with the failure of something so huge.
He loves his sister (most of the time) and his parents (most of the time). He hates school, but loves learning. He has his own rules. Yes, he’ll get royally pissed off if you change the rules on him.
His sense of “fairness” is his own; don’t even try to understand it.
He has his routines and his security.
He gets tired easily. He has low muscle tone. His handwriting is atrocious and he gets acutely frustrated when having to write anything. He’d much rather read books—any book on any subject, than play outside. He doesn’t like bright lights, crowds, noise, weird textures, jerky movements, or having his hair shampooed. They call this being “sensory sensitive,” or Sensory Integration Disorder.
He also doesn’t like to ask for help or use his words when having a problem.
My son is beautiful, smart and funny. He’s recently discovered jokes and riddles and spends a good deal of time cracking himself up. My son, Owen, has Aspberger’s**, so he’s on the Autism spectrum. He’s considered “high functioning.”
He’s my best buddy and my biggest challenge. No one told me parenting could be like this.
Next up: In the beginning, on the road to diagnosis.
**Yes, I know it’s no longer called Aspberger’s. I’m well aware that the latest edition of the DSM 5 places Aspberger’s squarely in the Autism spectrum, and re-labels it “high functioning.” I choose to still use the term Aspberger’s because it better describes Owen’s characteristics and behaviors.
Editor: Brianna Bemel
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