The Introduction

Sharing stories about Aaron is the best way to have insight into how Asperger’s Syndrome affects not only him, but all those who live and work with Aaron.  A key to surviving life with Aaron is to understand what makes him tick.  Then you can better function yourself and not live in constant frustration or bewilderment.  Training and directing him is also accomplished with better results when you can get inside his head and realize just how and when to redirect or when to wait it out. 

We moved to Wichita (Goddard), Kansas in 1999 when Gary retired from the military and accepted a job here.  A couple years later we enrolled Aaron in a school here that offers training to high functioning special needs students.  This training prepares them for being able to get a job upon graduation.  There were many great aspects of this school and its program, but it never was a good fit for Aaron.  One big reason is that the staff never understood him and so didn’t react correctly to what he said or did. 

I’ll never forget the open house and parent night during Aaron’s first year.  The students were to accompany their parents into each of their classrooms and introduce us to their teachers.  The students were treated as adults and so were to address each teacher by their first name.  The evening was going very well and Aaron was doing a great job.  It was nice to meet each teacher and to see his new environment that he was to be a part of now.  The evening was winding down and we had one more teacher to meet.  As we stood in the hallway, waiting for the family ahead of us to come out of the room, Aaron was beside himself with excitement.  When he’s excited he bends over and rubs his hands together, over and over.  He hadn’t acted this way with any of the other teachers and so we were perplexed at this behavior.  We tried to get him to calm down but to no avail.

Finally, the room was empty and we walked inside.  There stood his teacher, with a very pronounced spiked haircut.  Aaron quickly walked over to her, rubbing his hands together, and said, “Mom and Dad, this is Cindy (name changed).  She looks like a hedgehog, doesn’t she?!”   Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Time stood still.  We were horrified.  Aaron was delighted.  Cindy was unhappy.  Her reaction told us that things would not be easy for Aaron in this school.  Yes, Aaron needed to be corrected but not with disapproval or anger.  The battle stage was being set and Aaron will never give up.  It was a very long two years.  But Aaron did LOVE that haircut!

Football and Jailhouse Refs

Aaron has never shown any interest in sports at all, so it surprised us last year when he wanted to watch football with us.  It’s been interesting, to say the least, to try to explain the rules to him and to hear his take on all that he sees and hears as he watches the games.  Here are examples of some of his comments:

    “So who are you voting for in this game?”

    “Why are those men wearing those striped suits?”

    “Those referees look like they’ve been in jail.”

    “Those cheerleaders are weird.”

    “Those people who are yelling are crazy.”

    “Why do some of those football players have long hair?”

    “Those referees move their hands funny.”

    “Why did those people paint their bodies?”

And so we now watch football through Aaron’s eyes and it’s really quite entertaining.  Especially the part about the referees being in jail – but I’ll stop there. 

Random!

Oh, the randomness of Aaron’s conversations! Our lunch topics, thanks to Aaron, included: upcoming movies; Jackson’s (our Great Dane) tongue; typewriters; steam engines; Andrea’s new car; automatic toilets; ugly bar dancing women (something he saw on TV – honest!); a pregnant staff member at his day group……..and I’m sure I left something out but my brain is a little jumbled right now.

To The Minute!

Aaron is very precise.  Here is a conversation we had this morning when I asked him, “Aaron, what time did you go to sleep last night?”  He answered, “Well, I started reading at 10:20 and then I leaned my head back against the wall and went to sleep.  I woke up at 11:24!”  He has a running list where he keeps a record of the time he turns his light off and the time he wakes up.  He writes those times down every single day without fail! 

If he says he went to sleep at 11:03 and I say, “So you went to sleep around 11:00?”, he responds, “No!  I went to sleep at 11:03!”  Aaron’s world is orderly and precise – at least in his head and on his lists.  Don’t look at the piles on top of his bookcase! 

Lessons From the Little Black Ant

Let’s face it – life isn’t easy for any of us.  God has allowed Gary and I to be in a place we never even thought about as new parents to our beautiful baby Aaron over 32 years ago.  One summer I wrote some thoughts about persevering as we carry the burdens we face.  It involves an ant:

If you had driven by my house this morning you would have seen me standing in the front yard under our maple tree, watering hose in one hand and coffee in the other, with my hair blowing crazily in our Kansas wind. And to make me even more noticeable, I’m sure, was the fact that I was staring up into our maple tree for a long time. You see, God has often used my gardening as a time to teach me. Object lessons abound and this morning was no different. So I was observing God’s lesson for me this morning in the form of an itty bitty tiny black ant. An amazing itty bitty tiny black ant.

There he was, this little ant, carrying a white load that was bigger than he was. As he climbed up the tree, defying gravity with his load, he never wavered from the task at hand. Other ants were barreling down the tree, passing him as they went merrily on their way, seemingly oblivious to the load he carried. Several times he bumped into rough, curling bark that threatened to stop his progress. Then the wind blew and it buffeted him terribly. He would swerve and I wondered if he was going to fall down to the ground, but he never did. He pressed on and on until finally I could barely see him. I don’t know if he made it to his goal today or had to start over, but something tells me he accomplished what he set out to do. I know that God used that little oblivious ant to accomplish a work in my heart.

We all face those loads in life and I’m no different. I remember some of them in particular as milestones in my life. Usually the loads are painful, for that is when I learn the best. Aaron’s diagnosis of Epilepsy and then several years later of Autism were particularly hard loads to bear. Our frequent military moves were often painful as we once again said goodbye to family, friends, and ministry that we loved. Receiving the news of my dad’s two cancers, and then losing three of our parents in 14 months was at times too heavy to bear. Watching family that we love go through terrible trials takes a toll as well. That out-of-the-blue phone call that came several years ago that changed our lives and has impacted our children continues to be difficult.

I admit that lately I have become discouraged with it all. I have wanted to throw the load down and head merrily back down the tree to a life where things aren’t so burdensome. I’ve become tired of the impediments, the rough tree and curling bark. The winds of doubt and of feeling unused threaten to blow me off course. Worry, concerns, injustice – it all crowds in during the dark hours of the night when sleep won’t come. But today God spoke to me. Not with a mighty voice or an awesome miracle, but He allowed me to “consider the ant” and to be uplifted and blessed.

James said that we can know “that the testing of our faith produces endurance.” Endurance, which means abiding under difficulties. Not dropping the load and running back down the tree but living under the difficulties, pressing on toward the mark, and counting it joy. Thank you, God, for the strength that you promise; for the joy that you give under the loads of life; and for the little black ant that you sent my way today.