When we began the process for getting my step-son evaluated for Autism Spectrum Disorder, I did not know much about it. I still don’t, but I do know more that I did. I have also changed my perception of people with ASD. My first hand experience with my step-son has been all over the map, but mostly a huge, positive one. That, for several years, I just thought he was spoiled speaks volumes about his condition. If you did not know, you would think he was ‘normal’, maybe a bit mature, for his age.
However, thinking back about some of his quirks, outbursts and other traits, I see that in my other two kids. My 18 year old exhibited many, but not most. My three year old, again, shows many of the characteristics but not all. And, then there is myself. I fit the bill on many of the characteristics but, again, not all. And, this begs the question I posed in an earlier post: how many have either been misdiagnosed or, worse, not at all but should be?
For example, Xander, my three year old, is prone to outbursts, much like Preston did. He does not ‘melt down’ as much or to the same degree as Preston once did, but, nonetheless, Xander still does. He also is beginning to show some of the same texture issues that Preston does. Xander tends to get fixated on one thing for days or weeks at a time. However, the one big sign that Xander exhibits but Preston does not: Xander has a very vivid imagination. He can take anything make it into a toy and play for quite a while. You can hear him acting out things. He also bursts into song, exhibits empathy and will engage total strangers. Preston does none of this.
And then there is myself. I can be rather rigid in my thinking. And, though I thoroughly enjoy being around others and participating in conversation, I don’t really care much for people in general. I do not get scared or anxious in crowds, but it is uncomfortable at times. Sometimes, I find myself not caring when I should and also tend to gravitate to one, maybe two people when in a group. Generally, when she is with me, that person is my wife. She is my comfort zone and I tend not to leave the ‘zone.’
As far as imagination goes, I have tons of that. But, what’s odd is that I cannot always ‘see’ what’s in my head. I know what things look like, but I often cannot ‘see’ the object in my head. I found out, via a friend, that this is an actual condition called aphantasic. You, literally, are ‘brain blind’ in that you cannot imagine or picture anything in your head. I’m not quite like that, I can ‘see’ dim images, but no detail and lack of color. I would make an awful witness. I am terrible with names and faces for this reason.
So, what does all of this mean? Well, I don’t quite know except that the brain is a very delicate and complicated device. I don’t think Xander is autistic, but, honestly, I think it is too soon to really know. I think he is more the three year old than an autistic three year old. ADHD, maybe.
Since getting the diagnosis, I see Preston more as a child that needs our help, needs my help, more than seeing him as a spoiled child (which, like most children, he is to a degree.) Knowing WHY he does what does makes it much easier for me to understand and cope just as he has to. It also helps me be me…see, I share many of his quirks too. I always denied it, my wife loves to point it out, but, I think she is on to something. Who knows, maybe I have Aspergers (which, apparently, is no longer discussed.) Whatever the case, I have learned that the world doesn’t give a darn about me and that was one of the biggest eye opening moments of my life. It does not revolve around me or anyone else. Preston will figure this out too.
As odd as it sounds, I am looking forward to embarking on this journey with him. And if Xander does turn out to have the same thing, I look forward to walking with him as well.
Love and patience, my friends.