The Self Aware Aspie
Some people wonder exactly what a diagnosis of Aspergers gets them. Government assistance? Nope. Special insurance considerations? Doubt it. The understanding, care, and love of the general public? Far from it. Some not-so-gracious people may even see the diagnosis as an excuse for acting strangely. I’ll tell you what the Aspergers diagnosis gives me – piece of mind. It allows me to personally understand what’s going on, both in my brain and the brain of my daughter.
It’s not easy for any parent to deal with the meltdowns that inevitably come with an Aspie child. You can hear a lot of things that can hurt you. An Aspergers diagnosis can help you better understand what your child is going through, what your child is really saying when s/he screams “I HATE YOU!” It helps you realize that it’s a stress release, not an attack. Not that it washes your hands of your responsibility of your child, but it absolves you of blame for the tantrum.
In some cases, the diagnosis may be helpful for the child directly. My wife and I have talked to my daughter about her Aspergers; she knows that sometimes she just needs to let off some steam, and we’ve provided her a safe place to do that. When a tantrum occurs, she will loudly annouce to everyone (though heavy sobbing) that she “just need[s] to go upstairs and cry.” And she does. And when she’s finished, everything’s okay and she knows we still love her. This out-of-control feeling could be very scary to a child who doesn’t understand, but the diagnosis of Aspergers helps her understand that this stuff is normal… for her, anyway.
In ths case of adult Aspies like myself (note: although I haven’t been formally diagnosed, I pretty much accept the fact that I do have Aspergers), a diagnosis can help with self-discovery in very much the same way. It can give you insight on why you do the compulsive things you do, and how to handle certain situations in order to diffuse tantrums before they happen. The other day I was trying to make lunch for my family, and I kept running into roadblock after roadblock (not enough ingredients, missing supplies, etc.) until finally I felt it coming on… I was going to blow. But before I did, I took a deep breath, looked at my wife, and said, “I need to go upstairs for a moment before i start tantruming.” I did just that – I laid on the bed, closed my eyes, and just laid there. After a minute or two, I had regained enough composure to come back downstairs to make lunch with the stuff I had to work with.
It’s funny – my wife and I had to really fight to get our daughter diagnosed with Aspergers. At first, we agreed that the diagnosis didn’t really affect us or our love for our daughter; she was the same kid she always was and we wouldn’t treat her any differently. The diagnosis at that time was mainly for the benefit of others, to understand why she acts the way she does and in order to get her the care she needed at school and such. But recently I’ve seen that the diagnosis has helped us, but not in the “We’re ok with it” way. The diagnosis helps in understanding her, making her life and our lives more fulfilling by working with her needs as an Aspie. The diagnosis of Aspergers doesn’t define me or my daughter, but it is part of who we are.