Monday, 17 August 2009
From: Happy Aspies
I have been thinking a lot about Wolfie’s diagnosis and what it means to have one. It seems that more and more people on the spectrum are being diagnosed with other things on top of the ASD. They call this co-morbidity. Why must everything surrounding ASD’s be so doom and gloom? I don’t see his Asperger’s as an illness at all. I see it as a difference in how his brain works and how he makes connections to his ideas and his surroundings.
I have no doubt that, given some of the challenges he faces on a day to day basis, seeking a doctors opinion or care with any regularity about those things would result in a prescription. It would also result in some other diagnosis on top of the Aspergers. There are symptoms of his Asperger’s (and I am speaking only of my son, not anyone else who may have Asperger’s) that sometimes look like Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). But these symptoms are not present all of the time.
The ODD -like symptoms are present right now with respect to rules he is asked to follow that he sees no logical reason to follow. He is seven and he is desperate to be independent, yet he struggles with understanding the social expectations that are present everywhere. Even the ones he understands he does with an unconventional flair. I’m okay with that. What is interesting to me is the way he has catagorized the heirarchy of whose rules he has to follow and whose rules might be flexible.
He has developed a habit of saying “nope” to me pretty much anytime I ask him to do something like brush his teeth or get dressed or really anything he doesn’t feel like doing, but is expected to do. When I approach this with a choice like “if you don’t brush your teeth you will get cavities and then you won’t be allowed to have any sugar because your teeth will hurt”, usually results in a response from him like ,”Oh, fine. I’ll do it one minute.” This is a good time for me to tell him thanks for seeing my side of things and next time maybe just ask me for another minute instead of refusing.
The trouble is, I don’t always respond that way, and neither will the rest of society. But interestingly, he doesn’t respond that way unless he knows the person really well. He would never respond that way to a person of real authority like a police officer or pricipal of a school. He would respond that way to a teacher though. Why? Because he says the police officer and the principal are the boss. In his mind, the police are the boss of me and the pricipal is the boss of the teacher.
His ADD-like symptoms are present when he is bored. It’s as simple as that. At school, he is completely unsatisfied with most of the classroom stuff. Worksheet and writing exercises are so mundane. He has been writing his name clearly since age two and reading since age three so you can see why at age seven practicing writing his letters over and over again might result in not wanting to do it or moving around a lot. At home, I see these symptoms when he is looking for something to do and can’t quite figure out what it is that he wants. I have felt that way too. It’s called boredom.
I am going on and on about this for a few reasons. We have now been declined twice for health insurance for my son. Why? Because he has Asperger’s. How sad that this brain difference, that for my son poses no health risk, is being considered worthy of recoiling from completely. Maybe I am over simplifying when I suggest that this is one of the biggest forms of social protocol gone wrong that I have ever seen. To deny people coverage because they pose a risk of some kind? Why have insurance then? To look cool? To be able to say you have it?
To make matters worse, or better, depending on your situation, if you join a “group” it’s suddenly no big deal that you have a kid on the spectrum. I’m sure there is some explanation for this, but it seems like a load of B.S. to me. Thankfully for our family, my husband is self-employed and in our state you only need two employees to qualify as a group. I write this with pride as the new “office manager”. My heart goes out to those families who for whatever reason don’t have this as an option.
All of this could be avoided if Asperger’s weren’t considered a pathology or disorder. Some of our societies greatest inventors and achievers are believed to have had Asperger’s. The stigma of illness or disorder is doing these great people an incredible disservice. For society to hold people with Asperger’s on the one hand as if they were sick and needed to be cured and on the other hand brilliant for inventing things that have made life better and a hell of a lot more interesting is mind boggling to me.
I hold out hope that this will change through the education and advocacy being done on the part of my son and people with Asperger’s everywhere.