How is Your Son?
A woman came up to me at church this weekend and asked how my son is doing. She asked because her son is very similar to mine. They are both adults with Asperger’s Syndrome Disorder (ASD). My son was diagnosed in the early 90s. Back then there was a debate among the scientists. Is Asperger’s high functioning autism, or is it a diagnosis of its own? Last year they decided to lump them all together and call it all Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
People on the “lower” end of the spectrum are characterized by classic autism. They are completely non-verbal and seemingly trapped in their own mind. People on the higher end, like my son, are extremely verbal, very intelligent, but lack one thing that the neuro-typical brain has hardwired at birth. They cannot intuitively interpret non-verbal communication. This is called mind blindness. More about that in a moment…
Why Write Now?
I have been blogging for over a decade. This particular blog has been running since 2009. I just did a search to verify that I have NEVER written about this before. I have been very public about other personal and tender issues in my life (sometimes regrettably). Yet, I never wrote about this because I wanted to protect my son’s privacy and not talk ABOUT him in this public forum, as if he was some object to be discussed. He is my son. I love him with all my heart. He is an amazing writer, and, now that he is an adult, I invite him to join this conversation publicly on my blog, to help people understand ASD better.
I write now for two reasons. First, we are at a loss. We simply don’t know how to help him as parents of an adult son with ASD. Second, I know that there are people within the reach of my blogcast that share in a similar situation who may benefit from a public discussion/support forum.
What is Mind Blindness?
You may be wondering about mind blindness. Let me try to explain.
The neuro-typical brain is hard wired to interpret facial expressions and other non-verbal cues. Do you remember how your mother could give you “that look” and you knew exactly what she was telling you? ASDs can’t do that.
Let me demonstrate. Look at these three pictures and notice the labels.
Happy. Sad. Mad. Those are big and basic emotions. Not too hard to distinguish.
Now, what about these three. How would you interpret what I’m communicating?
These are more nuanced, aren’t they? You would have to know the context of the conversation to be sure what I was communicating non-verbally.
Now, this is what the ASD sees.
We don’t know exactly why the ASD brain functions this way. We just know that it does.
Can you imagine trying to navigate life when 90% of the things people are saying to you are like white noise?
Beginning the Conversation
I don’t want this to be a whiny, woe-is-me, kind of a blog post. I want to open a discussion for people who live with Asperger’s (I will limit it to the higher end of the spectrum, because I have no experience with the more classic autism). This is for both those people with ASD, like my son, and the family members who love them and have developed various coping mechanisms to deal with it.
Let’s be honest. It can be frustrating for everybody. Let’s talk about it.