I am the parent of a daughter with Asperger Syndrome (AS), a neurobiological disorder affecting several areas of one’s development. Commonly referred to as a form of “high-functioning” autism, Asperger Syndrome is a hidden disability because you cannot tell someone has it from their outward appearance. Individuals with Asperger’s (affectionately called Aspies) are considered to have a higher intellectual capacity while suffering from a lower social capacity.
My daughter did not talk until she was three years old and even then she spoke in simple words. She communicated by pointing and grunting and I just instinctively knew what she wanted. As a first-time parent (and a single mother), I did not want to admit that something may be wrong and when she finally started talking help did not seem warranted. I knew that she was “different”, but I had no idea these differences were anything more than a unique personality trait. I would tell people all of the time, “she sees the world differently than we do.” She took everything literally–from having “eyes in the back of your head” to “two heads are better than one” and not understanding phrases such as “what goes around comes around” or “going with the flow.”
Even as a baby, she struggled with change. She loved structure and doing the same thing everyday. I had already gotten in the habit of telling her every day what we were going to be doing. Early on she became obsessed with weather and would watch the Weather Channel like most children her age watched cartoons. As she has gotten older, music and theater have taken over her interest. Even at the early elementary, she struggled with certain subjects but none so much as just living in a world so different from the one she thought she lived in.
After years of struggling for answers from pediatricians, psychologists, neurologists and finally a child psychiatrist, my daughter was finally diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome when she was 12 years old. At this age and after being in a mainstream school environment for all of her elementary school years, public schools were reluctant to offer help. She went from public school to a private school and back to public school. With the help of a private tutor, she has managed to stay afloat in school. I am convinced that next year she will graduate from high school. I am not convinced, however, that she will be able to handle college. I am going to face that battle when she gets to it.
Click here for a link to take the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ). (Disclaimer: It is not measurement for diagnosis).