By Shelli Smartt
As a mother you instinctively know. You know long before the countless hours spent in waiting rooms, therapy centers and on the other side of a one-way mirror in observation rooms. Long before the words are uttered from a professional mouth or the letters are formed together on a page to name a diagnosis. You know from the rocking back and forth and the intense desire of that little person to bang his head repetitively against a solid surface. You know when he speaks to you in a monotone voice and in full adult sized sentences with a vocabulary that exceeds any of his 3 year old playmates. You know from the way he walks on his tiptoes. You know from his preference to play alone and not with other children in the playgroup. You know.
Other diagnoses may be given that don’t make sense. Your child quickly racks up diagnostic acronyms like others rack up ribbons and trophies. Those collective letters send you running to libraries and the Internet to learn more and see if, this time, you believe them to be a fit. Perhaps some of those new diagnoses are present too, but you know there is more that hasn’t yet been discovered deep within that little person’s mind and body. You trudge on. Not swayed by the good intentioned advice of friends and family that “he will outgrow it” or “he is just a kid”.
Then the moment is before you. The word is written on paper and added to an already thick file that has a label bearing your child’s name. There is no turning back. An official diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome has been given. Along for the ride come the co-morbidities of ADHD and OCD. Long before DSM-5 changed Asperger’s to be recognized as a part of Autism Spectrum Disorder, I knew my child was special and required more of me than the others.
At that time, I didn’t know the ‘what’ that would be needed from me to mother this child, but I did know the ‘not’. I wouldn’t allow him to be treated differently than those around him. He would be presented a life full of equal opportunities and his abilities would take center stage, allowing him to thrive.
Now that the professionals had confirmed what I knew, I could move on. I wanted that for him. I needed that for me. You see, as a mother, when something is amiss with your child, you tend to harbor a horrid guilt of being responsible for it. I now knew why his beautiful mind functioned differently than mine, and that it would take a different approach to meet him where he was. This would not deter us from giving everything we had to this child. The path we carved out for him on the day he was born, was still very much in our sights. There would now just be added rest stops and scenic routes along the way.
With all of the official business behind us, we resumed a life of living. A life full of laughter, fun and musings that only a literal, tell it like it is, Aspie can provide. Certainly this life and this child have challenged me beyond what I ever thought I could handle. We have had our share of sleepless nights and historical meltdowns, but they don’t compare to the wonder of watching him develop and grow into an insightful young man that is passionate about life, gaining acceptance and supporting community causes. He is a gifted musician and artist and has a photographic memory that always leaves me in awe. His intellect allowed him a membership into Mensa at a young age and an ever-present authority on all things engineering, historical and technological. Yes, he is very different than me, and I like that.
That written diagnosis came seven years ago. It has an undercurrent in our everyday lives, yet it is not who he is. He is a boy that is social, yet he has to work hard each day to engage with others and maintain those connections. He is a boy that embraces the way he stands out in a room and lives by the philosophy that life is to be lived uniquely. He is a child that finds comfort in clutter and organization in the most unconventional of ways. He has no desire to change and conform to what others think he should be. He is the conductor that invites us all to follow along on this journey with him. He will be the conduit that allows for social acceptance of all that is good and worthy, as he will accept nothing less. I am his proud mom. He is my son, and his life is full of ‘not’isms.
*Shelli Smartt is the busy CEE (Chief Executive Everything) to 3 busy cherubs, ages 12, 8 and 8…yes, they are twins. She believes parenting a child on the spectrum ensures that every day is a new adventure just waiting to be tried and explored. She and “the hubs” not only share parenting and household duties, but a fun little silicone chewelry company known as Chewigem USA. WEBSITE | FACEBOOK