I am constantly amazed by the quality of work that I see at our school. Our students are very talented in many academic areas. I listened to a student read an essay that they called a book several months ago. Since then, I have met with the student and had them refine the book.
The name of this book is “That Asperger’s Kid.” We are keeping the author of this book anonyomous at this time. At some point in her life she may add to it and make it even better and larger and then publish it under her name. I honestly believe that her material has that type of potential. Both student and parental permission have been obtained in order to share this powerful message on the blog. I believe that this is something that every parent and educator should read. I hope you gain as much from it as I have.
That Asperger’s Kid
The autobiography of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome
I always knew there was something about me that made me different than other kids, other people, and other minds. It made it hard for me to focus in school, to make friends, and to act like everybody else. I wondered why I was sometimes pulled out to take a little class with the school tutor, but I never asked. Every so often I would be pulled out of classes a couple times to take a special test with pictures and blocks and silly questions. I had no idea why for a long time, but again, I never asked because it was fun and the people giving me the test were so kind.
I slowly figured out that my differences had an official meaning. Then I heard the name: Asperger’s. I remembered all that I had heard and seen about it, like that episode of Arthur where he met another kid with Asperger’s, who appeared playing by himself and being extremely specific about things. Also, when something unusual happened, the boy went into a tantrum. I looked again at that episode. My Asperger’s was not quite as severe, but I knew why and understood the boy in the cartoon, though I could not put it into words.
That Different Kid
I think back to preschool and distinctly remember the looks of disgusted confusion I was given by the teachers and the other children. I was completely oblivious to the regular behaviors of my peers. What I considered right, wrong, normal and strange was a bunch of barely fitting puzzle pieces put together in a fashion I had known my whole life, and I had not understood why nobody else’s puzzle fit quite like mine did.
One time, in kindergarten, I remember we were making log cabin pictures with pretzels while we learned about Abraham Lincoln. But after I had done the interesting part, perfectly shaping the pretzels to border the windows, I was and knew I was going to be very bored with doing the same old thing with the rest of the flat little house.
To my right were three computers. I wanted to play the alphabet game. After a few minutes of being on the computer, my unfinished project still laying on the table, I felt my chair whip around and all of a sudden I was nose to nose with my teacher. Her lips curled in her rage as she hissed “what are you doing?!?” She ushered me forcefully back to my chair, not much harming me but leaving me bewildered and terrified. I cried softly.
I understood she was mad. But I didn’t understand exactly why. She had not made it apparent that I needed to complete the craft or else… I only understood my mothers’ instructions. With the tone of her voice, the shape of her lips, the look in her eyes, I could determine the importance of the task I was given. But my teacher had said so kindly that she would like us to finish our pictures so we could take them home, a message I did not see manditoriality in. I was absolutely dumbfounded at her response, how her soft gentle speech turned into a whipping spit of anger.
I remember that I would occasionally play sailors with my little brother on his loft bed, but most of the time, especially as a young child, I would play by myself in my dollhouse. I found it very awkward to play like I did in a doll house with another person. I liked to control the story and basically shape whatever happened.
It was around that time that I began narrating in my head, something I still do. I would say out loud the story I was playing, and when I grew tired of that, I always felt I had to say a formal good-bye as a narrator. Now, at an older age, I still mentally narrate my actions and things that I see (such as movies), as they happen.
That Dumb Kid
My teacher shouts my name. I look up to see what it is she wants. No, I did not hear what she said. I was very busy playing with the erasers in my desk. I am not interested in this topic. I am not defiant—I just can’t seem to pay attention or learn anything and now that I am behind and I would feel stupid to ask her to repeat herself.
“I just told you to pay attention two minutes ago. Give me those things!”
I do not want to give her my things. They comfort me and give me something to do.
I remember being pulled aside into the hallway on the way to the computer lab. “Why don’t you pay attention?”
I begin to cry. This is hard for me, being asked that question I wish I knew the answer to. “[My 2nd grade teacher] didn’t tell you… she should’ve told you that. I can’t, I just can’t focus. I try really hard but I can’t.”
She tries really hard to understand me, but she still looks confused and concerned. I want to know why, she wants to know why, but I don’t know why and can’t tell her why. It just is, the fact that I can’t pay attention.
Math was always hardest for me in elementary school. The numerous changes in every equation was hard to keep up with. If every number, answer, and operation was the same, I could’ve done fine. But if it was like that, it wouldn’t really be math, would it? The worst thing was when one little change makes everything different; that drove me crazy. “Oh you forgot this number was negative now the whole problem is going a whole other direction” or “multiplying the fraction is different than adding you can’t just add across”. I often ended getting fed up after the first try and just daydreaming for the rest of class.
That Weird Kid
I tried the night before every new school year to ask my mom how to make friends. I could never get a straight answer, nor one I could understand. New school years always exited me. New books, new backpack, new shoes, new teachers, and new schools. I was constantly switching schools for whatever reason. A home movement, or going from elementary to middle (most often the first). I had a very hard time making friends. I could not keep reciprocal conversation; I was very awkward; and I was once called by my godfather “funny looking”, so I knew that much had to be true.
Other kids either picked on me or avoided me completely. One boy liked to watch me squirm while he told the principal that I had been being mean and vicious to him and others. I had not been, and many a time had no idea what the ruthless terms he said I used meant. Another fellow liked to hit me with his music stand and see me try to fight back. Other times he said things to me I feel embarrassed to mention, and I of course was very flustered and confused at the time. I sometimes wonder if I did anything to cause them to feel such resentment, or that I was fun to insult. I never have understood what gain one gets from being so cruel to another. I cannot imagine what would drive a person to make another suffer day after day.
My daily life felt like a battle, a war between me and the world. They had swords; the things they called me, the fingers they pointed at me, the laughter they uttered to bleed me, the way they ignored me. I had my smile, nothing else. I didn’t have a single defense to being attacked; the on looking adults didn’t care. It hurt. I felt drained and scared. But I needed to keep my smile. It wasn’t a shield, it didn’t protect me; if it was anything like that it was a target. It was not a sword either. It couldn’t inflict pain or exact revenge on my attackers. My smile was a band aid. While the wounds on my heart piled up I just smiled, and it weakly served to heal me. It worked like a cotton ball taped over a flesh wound; hardly helping but better than nothing at all. A comfort, a small sign that I would make it out alive, a ray of hope that everything would be alright.
My identity became the judgements and lies my peers pinned on me. At the mention of my name, the response would be, “oh, you mean the weirdo?”, “the freak?”, “the demon girl?” The name my mother gave me seemed to change into the beastly things they would call me. My brothers and I’s last name became a curse. To be me or my sibling automatically made you an outcast. It was because my brothers and I are all diagnosed with Asperger’s. It made our lives difficult all the time; not making the grade, not being popular, being misunderstood everywhere we turned was our daily reality.
My heart hardened and became isolated and armored. I did not want to be hurt anymore, and drove all foes away swiftly. My band aid smile transformed into mouth of sharp, defending teeth. This is about when I began to think rigidly. It was black, or it was white. You were nice, or you were mean. You were my friend, or you were my foe. I stopped sorting a separate place for in-between. I held tight to my friends, the few that would treat me kindly. Anybody who laughed at me, was mean, or made a fool out of me was pushed away every time they dared to get close. Sometimes, when a person resembled an enemy by appearance or action, I did not even give them the chance to wrong me. This occasionally drove off even good people. After so much bitter treatment, I was not going to have it happen again. It hurt too much.Six Things Those Asperger’s Kids Want You to Know
- The following instructions listed are not true for every child or adolescent with aspergers. It is most important for you to realize that every aspergers child is different. Ask the aspergers child you know what they personally need.
- Don’t think that I am not listening to you just because I am wearing a blank expression. Usually, it means that I am in my head and trying to picture what you are telling me as best as I can.
- Never ask me why I can’t just be like a normal person. I DON’T KNOW.
- Pictures and visuals are a desperate part of my learning. Don’t tell me; show me.
- Please don’t tell me to stop crying. It helps me to feel better. Just validate my feelings and then let me cope however I must.
- Don’t compare me to anybody else. I am my own, individual, different-in-more-ways-than-you-can-imagine person.