Professor Charton, Mrs. Charton, your son is autistic. My recommendation is you institutionalize him, there’s nothing you can do for him.
By that, you should not be reading this post. Of course the usual response is the Bill Cosby skit about HIS dad. “I brought you in this world, I’ll take you out and make another one JUST like you!”
Recently, my mother typed up for me what was going on in my young life. How I started talking normally, but then suddenly stopped.
My father’s response to this was an emphatic NO! (There may have been times later where he regretted that, but that’s another chapter).
Dear Reader, at this point, you need to understand something. Dad was going for his PhD in Organic Chemistry, had a teaching load at Pratt Institute, and now had a son labeled autistic to cope with. This was the early 1960′s. You get the drift. He could’ve just as easily thrown up his hands and walked away. He didn’t. That’s why he was my hero. I said in my memorial to him, “If I could be one tenth what he was, I would be doing well.”
Dad made me come out of my shell. Suddenly, I started talking again. We will never know what or why.
My wife Elaine wonders, if what I really had (have)? is a mild form of Asperger’s.
I borrowed a new book from the library about this, by a psychologist named Tony Attwood, called The Complete Guide to Asperger’s. I read the book, and gulped, thinking, “Most of this could be autobiographical.”
You can read about it, but now I will tell you some of what happened to me, and the observations I’ve made.
I got bullied a lot, until later I got big enough to BE the bully. Whether human beings like it or not, we are part of the animal kingdom. Other kids recognize the one who’s different. Not saying right or wrong, more saying what I think is.
Also, you develop more slowly. One thing I read about people with Asperger’s is enjoying travel. It makes sense. I tend to explore cultures, almost like an Anthropologist. If I commit a faux-pas in Italy, I’m just the clumsy Yank. If I do it at home, I’m a jerk. I almost had to be an Anthropologist, in my own culture. The social cues you get through growing up, for me were learned. When to learn you are being overbearing and/or, boring someone.
It made me learn, why I could get interviews, but not hired and when I was younger, problems in workplaces. Better late than never, or the French version of the phrase I remember from French class, “Mieux Vaux tard que jamais!”
Asperger’s was only discovered as a separate syndrome in 1981. I realized if I’d been form from 1975 on, I would have had a very different life. There would have been more support systems. There would have been more of a roadmap.
Should you tell your young child (s)he is autistic and/or has Asperger’s? From my own insight (I am no clinician, can only give you my own experience), it could cut both ways. The child could use it as a crutch to not achieve, or with proper guidance will end up in the right place.
I ended up in the right place. All I can think of is the humorous things I see on Facebook, about growing up, we didn’t have all sorts of safety devices and we made it through.
How did I develop this insight? I was arrested and sentenced to anger management, (which I playfully refer to as “Naughty Counseling).” That one is not a freebie, you will have to buy the book when I write it. :)
I’ve been reading about Temple Grandin, an autistic woman who became a researcher about the subject.
With what scientists are learning about genetics and the brain, I wonder what else will be learned? Was autism once a primitive human defense mechanism? We are always learning something.
I used to be ashamed. Proud of what I’ve accomplished.
Advice for young people who read this? I know how hard it is, not to be the popular kid in the herd. Be yourself! Know what you have to offer. I’m thinking about this, because of my father. The second anniversary of his death was this past Saturday, April 12th. He always told me, be yourself. As a teen, it was hard to believe him. He was right. When I spoke at his memorial, I mentioned much of what’s in this essay. It turned out three people in the audience could relate to it.
This is why I am writing this. My goal is to help others. I may not be wealthy, but I can type. :) Please feel free to respond and ask questions.