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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