Sometimes life hands you a challenge, that at the outset seems insurmountable, but later you realise was in fact a gift that changed your life.
From the time our son David was about two years old we knew he was different from other children. He had an extremely limited vocabulary for his age. He found interaction with other people difficult and any opportunity to play or interact with his peers usually ended in an altercation or tears – usually the other child coming off second best! He bit other children for seemingly little reason; retaliated over the slightest thing with violence and although a generally loving child at home, playing with other children was extremely challenging for him.
By the time he started school the differences were more pronounced. He overreacted to certain stimuli, found it difficult to interact with his peers and had little or no communication skills. From early on we tried numerous medical and natural therapies, food allergy treatments, disciplines, educational programmes, pills and potions trying to find the ‘something that held the answer to the differences he faced, with most strategies having very little long term success.
We actually came to believe at one stage, it could be, as many people often alluded to, our inability to discipline a strong willed child -and a good swift smack on the behind was exactly what he needed!
After searching for answers for many years, in 1997, when David was twelve years old he was finally diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. Although today there are many medical professionals who understand this difference, in the 1990s it was a different story.
Aspergers Syndrome, sometimes called Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) was first described in the 1940s by a Viennese paediatrician Hans Asperger and recognised in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for the first time in the fourth edition published in 1994.
Aspergers Syndrome is the term applied to the mildest and highest functioning end of what is known as the Autistic Spectrum. Those diagnosed find it difficult to understand social skills, often misunderstand the use of language in communication and are usually considered ‘obsessive, focusing on one particular area of interest.
After the diagnosis we tried to find a ‘cure. Being very determined parents who believe ‘you create your own reality, we searched and tried numerous different treatments; medication, natural therapies and physical therapies, you name it we tried it. We were constantly trying new things and when one no longer worked, we would try another brand new and improved strategy, pill or therapy showing amazing results somewhere in the world.
During these times emotions overran our lives; anger, blame, frustration, sadness and fear. I felt as if we were caught on a treadmill, constantly seeking solutions to find something that would make this word ‘Aspergers go away.
Because the diagnosis and any knowledge of treatments or strategies to assist those with Aspergers Syndrome was, at the time, very limited, I spent much of my free time trying to find out what caused this challenge in our family. I spent hours, weeks and months looking for solutions from others, searching for the miracle cure that would make this ‘condition go away, looking to blame somebody for this life we had been given.
Reaching breaking point
I was angry. Very angry. This was not how our lives were supposed to be and I wanted it to be somebodys fault. I wanted somebody else to fix it and I wanted the world to know about it.
In the process, our lives began to spin out of control. We became trapped on a treadmill of blaming others, being angry with the world, trying to make the ‘system (whatever that was) wrong. I wanted others to change; I wanted the world to change to suit my child. We ploughed head on into a ‘victim mentality and in the process lost our ability to trust our own intuition and judgements. It became a self destructive cycle that manifested in our lives with poor business decisions leading to severe financial problems that affected our relationship and our health and made our home a stressful place to be.
It wasnt until we all reached breaking point that my husband, Gerry, and I finally made a decision: to take back the responsibility for our lives and for our child; to work on ourselves, understand who we were and in doing so explore the depth of our own emotions and beliefs.
Aspergers taught us the lessons we most needed to learn; the power of unconditional love, the value of patience and understanding and the true meaning of the words compassion, forgiveness, honesty and authenticity.
Those diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome are often intelligent, intense and self-focused individuals, who usually find success in a career requiring enormous amounts of attention to detail. But they view the world differently and because of this ‘difference they are often judged harshly as odd, over reactive, difficult or non-compliant. For many, their brains and bodies are often overstimulated by things such as noise, light, heat or cold. They can be oversensitive to certain fabrics, smells or odours, causing them to react in ways that are deemed unacceptable.