Disclaimer: This is literally my first blog post AND slice of life. I am not sure if I’m going to do this correctly, but it was important to take the plunge and just write!
There is not a lot of excitement, as one would normally think of it, in my household. Let me explain. My family is happy and healthy. We enjoy many things and have our share of normal family stress and “fights.” I would consider all of this normal. But at least half of us are not ones to get overly excited about much of anything. Time to explain more. Two fifths of my family has Asperger Syndrome. While we’ve known that about my son since he was 2-1/2 years, we retroactively figured this out about my husband after we received my son’s diagnosis. And believe me, it could be worse. We are blessed, truly, in the spectrum world. My son is fully mainstreamed and taking advantage of all of the things that any typically-developing 11-year-old would. My husband has a wife (lovely, in my humble opinion), a family, and chooses to be a stay-at-home Dad. He has been gainfully and successfully employed. He is an artisan as well as an artist. Most importantly, unlike myself, he can help the kids with their math homework.
But one thing about AS is that, even when you are happy and excited, you don’t show it on your face. In fact, my middle son once inquired as to why his older brother was never happy. I asked him to please clarify his question. He asked more directly, “Why does my brother never smile? Is he ever happy?” I assured this concerned younger brother that he was indeed happy most of the time. But his brain rarely told his face what it was supposed to do on the outside, to reflect all that was happening on the inside. This actually helped me explain to my husband, who became quite frustrated after a series of unsuccessful family portraits, that it actually wasn’t his fault. It was just difficult for him to smile naturally, as he hasn’t had much life practice doing so.
Asperger Syndrome is a spectrum disorder, so not everyone “acts the same” who has this diagnosis. While my son is a “close talker,” very affectionate, and will share everything that is on his mind, which is often about math or video games, even when his audience is not overly interested, my husband is extremely introverted. It’s not shy, although that would be the best way to describe it. So, when my husband talks about the same subject more than once in a row – I know he is excited about something. Last night, he was excited. He has taken to following an “Asperger Experts” group on Facebook. And something that they wrote really resonated with him – really. He was explaining how this group was describing the life of someone with AS as having three modes: survival, maintenance, and growth. The authors wrote in such a way that he really connected with this information. He shared how they described most of the life of someone with AS, especially during social or stressful situations, as being “survival.” When one is in survival mode, he/she cannot learn, be reasonable/flexible, or even hear what he/she is being told. Then the site offered some suggestions for how to get out of survival mode and even take advantage of growth mode. He read some ideas to help him possibly be in “maintenance” a bit more often as well – for a more “stable” existence.
I’m excited for his new learning, for his understanding himself a bit better, and even for his possibly being able to apply this new information to his relationship with my son. I’m glad that I was able to stop “being busy” enough to notice his excitement. It has been a very unique (but completely rewarding) experience to be the mom of someone with AS. I believe that those life lessons are teaching me how to be a better wife to someone with AS as well.