I've gotten several good questions out of M1 this week. Many of them are related to his Asperger's and a new book that we got (details of which I'll share at a later date); some of them are just... him. All of them have reminded me just how literal my child is and how carefully I have to word certain things for the answers to fit into the correct answer slots in his brain.
Q1: Why do I get startled when people touch me?
A: Well, people with Asperger's - and autism in general - usually like to think a lot. And when most people think, they can still kind of keep part of their brain paying attention to the world around them so that if someone comes up and touches them, they hear them coming and expect it. But when you think, you get very deep in your brain and some of your other senses kind of switch off so that if someone touches you, it's a very big surprise. And you don't like surprises too much.
Q2: So should I tell people about my Asperger's Syndrome?
A: No, not usually. Most people don't need to know. Kids definitely don't need to know, because they're usually not going to understand anyway. Most adults don't need to know, either, because they aren't going to be around you long enough for it to be noticed... and if you are, and it's an issue, then I'll let them know for you. However, if you're having trouble with a kid, like at camp, and get overwhelmed, then you can tell the counselor or adult in charge that you don't know how to handle a situation, and you can say it's because of your Asperger's, and that's okay. But mostly, as long as you're being you, nobody needs to know.
Q3: So why do I get bullied all the time? Like at camp last year when those two guys picked on me?
A: Well, I'm sure that on the weeks you weren't there, they picked on someone else. Bullies usually pick just one person at a time to be mean to. Try to walk away or handle the situation yourself if you can, but if they get rough or make you feel like you need to cry, tell an adult. Bullying happens to other kids, too, but it definitely makes you feel alone.
Q4: So is there anything wrong with me?
A: Absolutely not. Having Asperger's Syndrome just means that your brain sees the world differently, that's all.
M1: That's right. I see the world as a very small ball with lots of people on it floating in space along with billions and billions of other stars and planets.
A: Um... well, that's kind of what I mean. I didn't quite mean that the way you understood it. Your brain understood my answer differently than I meant it. When I said 'world,' I meant 'environment.' [pause] And by 'environment,' I mean the immediate world around you, not the environment like plants and animals. I mean that you don't feel the same things that other people feel.
M1: I know. That's why I get startled when people touch me.
A: Ah. Um... well, yes. That's true. But when I said 'feel,' I meant feeling emotions. You don't experience all the same emotions that everyone else would feel in certain situations. You don't necessarily get excited about the same stuff as everyone else or get upset when someone else feels sad. So in your people environment, your world, you have different reactions to other people. But it's not a bad thing; it's just how you were made. It's genetic.
M1: Like a gene mutation?
A: Sort of. Close enough.
Today I gave him a coloring page for history. We're studying the Reformation, and the coloring page was a blank stained glass image of Mary holding Jesus after he had been taken down from the cross. M1 colored Mary's robe and then paused.
"What was the weather like the day that Jesus died?"
He scoured all four Gospels for any information. He determined that since it got dark at the sixth hour, it must have been at least partly sunny before. Ergo, the sky in the background of the 'stained glass' image could be blue. He colored the sky. Then he paused again.
He was parked on the floor holding his tray of People Color crayons and looking puzzled. "What color is people's skin in Jerusalem?"
Google helped with that one.
In the end, though, I think he summed up who he is in one little paragraph. I typed this as he said it, so I know it's a direct quote. M1's take on himself: "It's boring when everybody's just all the same, and they can walk, and they don't have anything wrong with them. No gene mutations, anything. Just plain people; nothing wrong with them. It's boring. But I'm not one of those boring people. I am myself. I am the only me there is."
That's very true, son... very, very true. Say hello to your boring mother. ;)