“You know he has Asperger’s, right?” the doctor said. That was nine years ago. Nick my oldest was going for his annual checkup with a new doctor. We had just moved. This doctor spent only 5 minutes with him. How does he know anything? I had been with him for 11 years; how did I not notice? This could not be true. We drove home in silence with me wondering, what is Asperger’s? What does this mean? What do we do now?
I did what I always do when I am unsure of information. I read everything I could about Asperger’s. I still have three books from that first week on the bookshelf. So, I ran through the list: difficulty with potty training (check), emotional outbursts (check), ADHD like behavior (check), social awkwardness (check), and inability to read emotions and understand sarcasm (check, check). OMG! He did have Asperger’s. Now what?
It wasn’t like we didn’t notice behaviors, but doctors and teachers always said he had serious attention problems. When he was 4, he would run around the house 3 times before it was alright for me to unlock the door and then crash when we got in the house. He refused to wear underwear and use the potty. Doctor said, “Boys are harder to potty train.” He hardly played with any other kids besides his little cousin Jen. He would throw fits and the teachers would say he is young for this grade, so he isn’t as mature. We just never saw it.
That year we took him to a psychologist and had him tested. It was confirmed that he was intellectually advanced but socially deficient. We spent years in IEP meetings and therapist offices trying to figure out how to fix him and make him better. Then he graduated from high school 2 years ago. Now what?
He is on the spectrum, but very high functioning. When people meet him, they might notice his uneasiness with strangers and talking. But those of us who truly know him, know that he will not stop talking. He is an expert in what his interests happen to be this year. When he was in 2nd grade, he memorized the evolutions and the point systems on the Pokémon cards. In 5th grade, he learned everything he could about wrestling. He even created costumes and tried to create his own wresting characters. For the last three years, he has been consumed with the art of rapping.
Yes, my socially awkward suburbanite child is a rapper. He has written a few songs and records a few free style songs, but he has a fear of audiences, so he would never perform for them. He has, however, gotten very good at understanding language. He creates metaphors, and imagery, but he often raps about a life that he would never be comfortable in. He spends most of his days working, and then he spends his evenings telling me and his dad about how he is going to spit his game to some girl at work the next day. We know that will not be happening tomorrow, but maybe the next day.
He has come a long way. He used to be a middle school boy who could not order a sandwich at Burger King. Now, this week he will be a twenty-year-old who must figure out his backup plan to being a rapper. Time will teach those lessons and turn his attention in more adult directions. But for now, I just sit back and enjoy the ride and wonder where the years have gone.