People with Asperger Syndrome (AS) who were born before 1994 were so out of sync with the rest of the world they were often told they were weird. And that was one of the kinder epithets. It is no wonder that there are now a lot of Aspergers diagnosis in adults.
My son, Max, was born in 1953. He was three hours old when his pediatrician said, “This baby’s going to give you trouble. He’s been awake ever since he was born and looking around as though he’s trying to decide how to redesign the world.” The trouble part was right on. Hating any sort of confinement, Max climbed out of his crib and crashed to the floor when he was seven months old. The pediatrician wasn’t surprised when I told him. He just suggested I pad the floor around the crib because he was sure Max wouldn’t quit trying to escape. Max finally did stop, but only because he had figured out how to dismantle the crib.
By the time Max was three, I knew we needed help and was lucky to get him into a school that specialized in children with psych problems. The first thing they did was test his IQ. At my first meeting with the staff, the psychiatrist asked, “Do you have any idea what his IQ is?” He sounded freaked out. When I told him I didn’t know nor did I want to know. I wanted to understand why such an obviously brilliant kid was so out of sync with the rest of the world. Two years later, they still had no clue what made him tick.
By then his older sister and younger brother started asking why Max was the only one his father and I loved. They quantified time with love. And nothing I could say changed their minds.
When he was in third grade, Max noticed the sixth grade bullies yanking a polio crippled boy’s crutches out of his hands and dumping them on the ground out of his reach. So Max picked up the crutches then stood next to the boy until recess was over. He arrived home mud covered, bruised and with the knees of his chinos torn open. His older sister said the crutch grabbing bullies had chased him home and repeatedly knocked him to the ground. Were the bullies called in and disciplined? No way. Max, his father and I were referred to a psychologist to find out what was wrong with a boy who didn’t understand simple “playground rules.” This was in the mid sixties and no one knew why this high IQ boy couldn’t figure out something so simple. Something all the other kids instinctively understood. Things got worse as he got older. High school for an angry child was a nightmare in a village with a curfew.
He was forty-eight when he was told he had Asperger Syndrome. He was relieved to discover his mind set was physiological, but is still battered by other people’s expectations that make no sense to him and still has inflexible ideas about what others should do.
I’m a writer and finally wrote and sold a memoir about what it’s like to raise an undiagnosed Asperger child and how the syndrome affected him, his siblings and his parents. SUCKING UP YELLOW JACKETS was released in mid-October 2010 by O-books: an imprint of John Hunt Publishing Ltd (UK.) The title could have been used as a metaphor but it really happened.