I have often referred to an old article that I have had for years when I talk about the traits of persons with Asperger’s Syndrome. The article is from the Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support website, known as O.A.S.I.S. Karen Williams wrote a good article there entitled, “Understanding the Student With Asperger’s Syndrome: Guidelines for Teachers.” But this article is also an excellent resource for parents, siblings, or friends of those with many forms of autism. I remember that when I first read this article, I thought Ms. Williams must surely have met our Aaron. She was describing him so well!
In this article, as she writes about impairment in social interaction, Ms. Williams says that the individual with Asperger’s is insensitive and lacks tact. She goes on to say, “When they have been unintentionally tactless or insensitive, it must be explained to them why the response was inappropriate and what response would have been correct. Individuals with AS must learn social skills intellectually. They lack social instinct and intuition.”
And I say: “Yes! Yes! Yes!” I don’t know how many times I have said to someone, “I don’t know how many times we’ve told Aaron not to say……” Or, “I don’t know how many times we’ve told Aaron not to do…….” Just fill in the blank. Almost anything would fit. Gary and I continue to correct, reinforce, admonish, explain, redirect……and pray a lot…….and get red faces a lot……..over some of the things that Aaron says and does.
Aaron will call it like he sees it. For instance, someone in his day group has buck teeth. One day Aaron was very excited to tell me about this person. “Mom! ______ has bucket teeth!” As if that wasn’t bad enough, he proceeded to demonstrate what the bucket teeth looked like. Somehow I held it together and explained to Aaron that this person couldn’t help what kind of teeth he had, and that he shouldn’t mock him.
Aaron was totally confused. He didn’t understand why his actions were wrong, so I rehearsed our lesson about not talking about people’s physical characteristics. I knew where Aaron would someday go with this fascination about the “bucket teeth.” Sure enough, not long ago Aaron said, “Mom! I told _____ that he looks like a rabbit!”
I knew this would happen……..so again I talked to him about how very wrong this was, and how would he feel if someone told him that he looked like a rabbit? And Aaron’s response? “But Mom! He DOES look like a rabbit!”
It’s a good thing that I have a hard head, because I sure do beat it against the proverbial wall a LOT!!
The other morning, Aaron decided to play a little game with me. I went in to wake him up. He lay there perfectly still under his always-present pile of covers. I spoke to him a few times as I opened his blinds. Finally as I walked toward his bedroom door, he flatly said, “I’m iknorin’ you.” I love how he pronounces the word “ignoring.” So I chuckled and told him to get out of bed. Later that evening, I went to his room to tell him that his favorite Wheel of Fortune was getting ready to come on the television. As I walked out of his room, he said, “I’m still iknorin’ you.” And as I went down the stairs, he continued, “You fell for it. You’re weird!”
Now he shouldn’t tell people that they are weird, especially not Mom, so once again I reinforced this fact when he came downstairs. And of course, he affirmed, “But you ARE weird, Mom!” Sigh.
I never like for Aaron to answer the phone, but Aaron LOVES answering the phone. A few days ago, as I was getting ready to take him to meet his group, our phone rang. Aaron made a beeline for it, so I told him not to answer it because I couldn’t talk. He saw on the caller ID the last name of Travis……..a name he knows well. He was very excited as he pushed the talk button and blurted out, “Mom can’t talk now!!” Not even a hello from Aaron! I could hear Jennifer laughing heartily and then Aaron laughed. He thought that this was so much fun! And I was very glad it was my good friend who totally gets Aaron.
Aaron calls Jackson’s dog food “pebbles” because the pieces are little round balls. Yesterday we went into Papa Murphy’s to get Aaron a pizza for supper. Aaron wanted to look at the topping selections, so he looked down through the window at the containers of toppings. Instantly he spied the little Italian sausage balls that looked like Jackson’s dog food pebbles and very loudly exclaimed, “That looks like DOG FOOD!!”
And there I stood, explaining to the puzzled young man behind the counter, that our dog’s food is round like that sausage is round……….not wanting him to think that Aaron has just insulted the pizza toppings or Papa Murphy’s……….and Aaron was off inspecting the buckets of cookie dough and wondering where on earth the bread sticks were.
I remember years ago sitting in church, where we had a guest preaching on this particular Sunday morning. Gary and I were sitting in the back, where we always sat with Aaron for obvious reasons. This preacher was a little louder and moved around more than our pastor did……..our pastor that Aaron was used to and with whom he was very comfortable. We could tell that Aaron was becoming frustrated with this moving, louder preacher. And our Aaron, who doesn’t know how to really whisper, said rather loudly, “Can someone tell him to be quiet?!”
At those moments, Gary and I look like we’ve practiced synchronized parenting as we both bent towards Aaron, who was sitting between us, and as we both clamped down on his legs and hissed at him to HUSH!!! I’m sure that we could take gold in the synchronized parenting category. And in the red-faced, we think we’re going to have a stroke, category as well.
Oh my goodness, how many times have we wished that we could just tell Aaron to be quiet! But in retrospect, we can look back with much laughter over so many of the things that Aaron has said and done.
And I guess embarrassment is part of building strong character in us as Aaron’s parents……….or just shows what a character Aaron is!
I may as well say it – keep talking, Aaron! He’s going to anyway.