THE SHOCK OF AN ASPERGERS DIAGNOSIS
At seven years of age, I thought Brian was a
bit eccentric but otherwise pretty normal. He was aloof, didn't
respond to affection well and could be very nasty to his little
brother, but then there are plenty of seven-year-old boys like that
around the world. He always asked so many questions, far more than
normal, and was obsessed with how things work.
My wife is a professional working with children,
and she was the first to raise the possibility of Brian having Aspergers
syndrome. I disagreed, especially as Brian was pretty similar
to me as a child and I turned out okay. But Brian was seen by the
school guidance officer who said Aspergers was a possibility. The
next stop was the neighborhood doctor who agreed enough to make
a referral to a pediatrician.
The assessment process
The pediatrician agreed that it was full-blown
Asperger’s and explained about the Autism Spectrum Disorders and
then referred us to the Children & Youth Mental Health Service
where a psychiatrist spent time talking to all of us and watching
how we all interacted as the kids played with toys in his office.
What surprised me was that the psychiatrist spent so much time asking
me questions and about my father, brothers and sisters. Wasn't Brian
the one suspected of Aspergers or Autism?
I figured all of this was just to rule out a dysfunctional family
being the cause of his behavior.
A surprising diagnosis
I was bowled over when the psych said Brian had
Aspergers syndrome, and I did too! At first I was just stunned,
then eventually got quite angry – how could this psychiatrist diagnose
me from just chatting for a while?
Julie was very upset by the diagnosis
for some months, and perhaps felt a bit despairing of the situation.
It’s hard to know as we did drift apart for a while – I thought
she may have thought I was the cause if I had Aspergers too, and
it was just a difficult time all round.
I think I just pushed all the feelings aside about
Brian's diagnosis, and I was very ambivalent about it. I mean what
does it really mean? People were saying Albert
Einstein probably had Aspergers, and maybe Bill Gates does too,
as if Aspergers meant you could be rich and famous. To me, Brian
was simply an intelligent, healthy boy who could communicate, but
simply had issues in some areas, and strengths in other areas.
The various health professionals we saw probably thought I was denial,
as I just thought we’ll just do the best we can whatever the situation.
I put other things on hold and decided to just focus on Brian and
see what we could do to help him.
Compensating for weaknesses
As for me, I don't know if I'm happy to wear the
label of Aspergers syndrome. I'm married and have been for 17 years,
although we certainly have our ups and downs. My work history is
pretty patchy but we've done okay. I'm really just focusing on early
intervention for Brian and helping him to work out how to make
friends, see things from other points of view and learn better communication
skills. I don't really know if I'm happy for him to wear the label
of Asperger’s syndrome either. We never really refer to it with
him, but just say that like any kid, he has specific strengths and
weaknesses. Like everyone else, he just has to make full use of
his strengths, and learn how to compensate for the weaknesses.
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