Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Brother's Story

I don’t feel disabled,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’m weird. I just know that from everyone’s reactions.”

This is an eloquent account of a family's journey with Asperger's, as told by a young man's neurotypical younger brother.

Some excerpts:
"Mom stayed home then, taking care of us and the house. Dad worked 10-hour days at IBM, feeling stuck in a managerial job he never really wanted. Every morning before Erik and I headed off to primary school, Mom would make our breakfast and Dad’s lunch.
While Mom got our cereal or toast with chocolate sprinkles ready, I’d get dressed in my second-floor room. A floor above, in Erik’s room, the drama would start.
Erik, get dressed! I’d hear my mother yell up the stairs. Erik, take 20 less minutes on your shower!
Erik, brush your teeth! And — again — Erik, get dressed!
Despite her pleas, most mornings found Erik curled up in his room, reading a video game magazine or staring off into space.
I hated the yelling, so I’d hear one order and follow it. (That stuck with me for life — I’ve often been called mature for my age, probably from watching my parents give the same orders over and over. Or maybe from not wanting to add to the chaos.)
“It was a really, really tough time,” Mom told me recently.
One exhausting morning after another, after we were finally out the door, she would sink into a living room couch, turn on the TV and try to forget what was going on around her. She’d try to forget her husband’s disaffection with a job he hated. She’d try to forget that she was thousands of miles from her parents. And she’d try to forget that she had a son who didn’t seem to be learning any of the practical aspects of life."

"That was the year my parents sent Erik to his first psychologist. They didn’t learn then that he had Asperger’s; the disorder hadn’t been identified yet. But they did learn that he needed special attention, and that it wasn’t their parenting that was at fault. They received tips, such as breaking down activities into smaller steps, on how to help him learn. “What we learned was we could not expect Erik to do what other children were doing at his age,” Mom said. “We had to meet him where he was and where his needs were. When we started doing that, when we stopped putting demands on him, the whole atmosphere in the house improved tremendously.”
It saved the marriage.
They were lucky."

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