Autism and Asperger’s

Twelve-year-old Joshua Littman, who has Asperger’s (a form of autism), interviews his mother Sarah.

Watch first, then read what I have to say below.

My son is autistic, and his older sister has Asperger’s. I’m fairly certain my oldest daughter has Asperger’s, too. Autism and Asperger’s are a fact of life around my house. I have noticed that because of my experiences with my children, I am a much better teacher to my students with Asperger’s.

When Joshua expresses here his concern that people like his sister Amy better, I love his mother’s answer. She does not sugar-coat it. She’s honest, but she explains why people have the reaction that they do to Joshua. That heartrending question of whether he was the son that his mother expected, whether he met her expectations, is something that I have thought about a lot over the last year or so.

With my son, I live in the moment, and I don’t think a lot about his future. I don’t think about whether he will have a wife, children, a career. In fact, I don’t think about these things with my daughters, either. I think about where they are now and where they have been. I can’t explain why because normally I think ahead a lot. I imagine future trips to places I want to go. I think about things I want to teach and how I will teach them. I worry over retirement, which is some time away for me. But the point is that I think about my future all the time.

I cannot honestly say that I expected to have children on the autism-spectrum. I had no reason to suspect that I would. But in many ways, just like Joshua has with Sarah, they have exceeded my expectations. I could not imagine them other than how they are, and I’m so proud of who they are and how far they have come. I love them as they are, and I wouldn’t want them to be different. It isn’t that it’s easy. In fact, parenting my children is pretty hard sometimes.

But I got to see my son, who didn’t talk until he was four, teach himself to read and write, and eventually learn to talk. He tells knock-knock jokes. He tells complete strangers “hi.” Sure, he gets in their personal space and misreads their social cues when he does it. He’s a funny, sweet little person, though.

My middle daughter has an advanced vocabulary and a gift for art. My oldest is an extremely accomplished artist and writer.

They are all eccentric, quirky people, and they make me laugh. Life can be hard for them because of their social problems. They can be blunt to the point of hurting your feelings.

If there is one thing I could wish for them, when I do think about their futures, it’s that they will have teachers and friends that understand and accept them. They have so much to give, and I think their teachers and friends can learn from them in the ways that I have.

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10 thoughts on “Autism and Asperger’s

  1. hmmmm. I think I learned about love from my oldest, who was diagnosed with a myriad of syndromes as a child. We settled on the ones that made sense to us–PDD (now outmoded) and reactive attachment disorder–and we went from there. She is 22 now, and I cannot imagine the world without her. Still difficult and confusing at times, but the most amazing, nurturing person in her own way. Loving somebody is so much about what you do for them, not how you feel about them……we are all lucky that she is in the world. Congrats on your family!

  2. I have a stepson with Smith Lemii Opitz syndrome, which is severe autism. He will forever be three years old but is the sweetest giant toddler ever.

    My husband lost his first wife and never expected to remarry due to having such a challenging son, and then he met me: I have Cerebral Palsy and grew up going to physical and speech therapy with kids of all disablilities so I was undaunted. Challenged, but undaunted.

    He will never grow up, marry, have kids. Big accomplishments include washing his own hair and putting things away, and then there's the downside of brain wave spikes which send him into uncontrollable fits or anger. Like a toddler on steroids.

    My husband says "Have no expectations and you'll never be disappointed", I have expectations: That I will hear the Dora theme song thousands of times, that I will always have to find Superman pajamas in adult sizes, and that yes he will hugs strangers and I'll cringe as I wait to see if they are okay or want to hit him. Mostly, I expect to laugh a lot, take each moment as it comes, and find small ways to make all of our lives meaningful. I also expect that starting every september he will start to beg for the x-mas tree to be out!

    Sounds like you are doing a great job living up to expectations!

    Their gift to us is teaching us how to give and love without reservation or expectation, but rather joy in the moment.

    I think your kids will better the world by showing them how to be gracious, that different isn't bad, and that being generous is a bigger prize then getting things.

    Sounds like you two are doing a great job! BTW, I am an online friend of your hubby's, that's how i ran across this.

    May you have a peaceful day

  3. Thanks for spreading along this interview/ cartoon and sharing your story. With the rate of diagnoses of children on the spectrum, we're all going to know someone with autism in our lives. It is obvious in reading your post that you have amazing, talented children. What an inspiration you are to parents with children on the spectrum!

  4. I'm sitting in my classroom trying not to cry. The video and the post are so powerful to me b/c of how similar my experiences are/have been. I have a 9 yr-old son on the autism spectrum.

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. I have a 2 1/2 year old who has autism. He's so enthusiastic and will probably have a career that involves flying (not necessarily in a plane). :) It's always awesome to hear other parents/educators talk about their children who have these kids of opportunities/challenges. I love your way of saying that you "live in the moment." It makes life with these littles so much fun!

  6. Thank you for this post. My fiance was diagnosed with Asperger's when he was younger, and his life has been difficult because of it. The difficulty of Asperger's itself is very often added to by misunderstanding and impatience.

    I advocate for my students with Austism and Asperger's because very often, other teachers see them as "distracted" or "annoying." I've seen people yell at students with Spectrum disorders because they are unable to make a simple choice or answer a question, not knowing that the student is running through all possible correct answers in their head, or trying to answer the implied question they think is being asked.

    It is more than likely that my fiance and I will have children on the Spectrum. I cannot wait to meet- and love- them.

  7. I had a student for the past two years who is autistic…and who was one of my brightest students. He was very socially awkward in class (and some of his peers never knew why…which did lead to some teasing on their part — so aggravating to see), but would volunteer answers when he wanted to, worked incredibly hard to get his work done and done right, and asked questions when he didn't understand. I felt bad he had me for a teacher, since I'm not very organized, but I feel that I made up for that in effort and understanding. He's graduating this year and I can't wait to see him walk across the stage.

  8. Thanks Dana and everybody for your heartfelt comments…I really needed to hear all of this right now…

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