When your child has had times when he doesn’t function in society, when he has had moments like running off the stage when playing Joseph in a Christmas play, biting a kid who was annoying him, or melting down as a toddler in the church nursery, you are allowed to feel proud when something seems to be working and they DO function, not only in society, but in a new or chaotic environment. I had some of those PROUD moments lately.
The first one came about a month ago when a teacher at the school where I work had a student in her class diagnosed with Aspergers and she asked me to come speak to the class. I told my 15-year-old son Daniel that I had been asked to speak and he asked me if he could come too. He said he’d like to tell the class about having Aspergers. Wow! I was surprised and SO excited. This kid was nervous to speak to adults or even kids his own age a few years ago and now he wants to speak in a class full of kids and teachers? So, we found a book about Aspergers and I read it to the class. After that, Daniel spoke and answered questions.
My favorite illustration that he gave was one about superheroes. He asked the class of first graders if superheroes were regular, normal people. Of course, they said no. Daniel went on to say that kids with Aspergers aren’t regular, normal people either. They are special in a good way, just like superheroes. He said he was glad he has Aspergers because it makes him super good at some things and it makes him who he is. Right after that, the newly diagnosed first grader said, “I’m glad I have Aspergers too.” Wow. Talk about having a teary-eyed, smiling moment of pride!
Then, this last weekend, we attended a First Robotics Competition. Daniel was able to join the Robotics team of a local public high school, as was another friend who is also a homeschooler. (Sometimes, all homeschoolers have to do is ask and you can join in with public school activities). He had spent the fall attending meetings and helping build this robot for the regional competition. Through that process, at the advice of a friend, I had stepped back and let him integrate into the group on his own. The kids on the team were really friendly and accepting of his differences and his gifts.
The competition, though, was in a big, noisy room at a convention center, with music playing, an announcer yelling, and busy people. The team was in a “pit” and was busily at work in semi-organized chaos. My son, somehow, was able to tune out the noise (with some effort) and stay engaged with the team all day long! He kept going back to the team to ask if there was anything they needed him to do, he watched competitions, and even helped carry the robot on the playing field. And, at the end of the day, he attended a dance and happily joined in on the dance floor, doing his own thing and enjoying the music and friends. Wow. Double-wow.
I know I must have looked pretty silly watching that dance. I just sat there and smiled from ear to ear. My son, who had struggled so much with friendship, social skills, academics, and much more, was really happy and accepted and had, in his words, “a day that he will never forget”. I’m not sure what we’ve done over the years that made the difference for those days and those experiences but I know God has been at work in Daniel’s life through many interventions, types of schooling, and prayers. All I can say is that I am thankful!