Monday, June 13, 2005


I wonder what it's like to be Jonathan. That's my son, Jonathan. He has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism. People with AS have normal to high IQs (Jon is way smarter than I'll ever be) but have major social skill deficits. Social relationships are conducted in an odd and inexplicable language that they do not understand. They also tend to be, um, obsessed with particular (and sometimes peculiar) topics. This can also hinder relationships. Ever tried to carry on a conversation with someone who only really cares about discussing D and D?

Jonathan doesn't tend to have too many conversations, give and take interactions. He gives lectures. Fortunately, he is droll and well-versed in any number of topics. So his lectures tend to be on the amusing side, even if they are on topics about which I care little. They do give me insight into what he cares about. And listening is a way of showing him how much I love him. So I do listen. As long as I can. :-)

The lack of social understanding comes up in surprising places. Jon is homeschooled. As part of his English studies this year, he's been reading American Literature. Generally, he has very high comprehension of all material that he reads. But if a novel were to be focused mostly on relationships, say a Henry James novel, it is all Greek to him. He can't impute motives to characters' actions. He can't put himself in a character's shoes to understand why s/he would think or feel a certain way.

I wonder what it's like, reading these books. He says it's just plain annoying. The books are almost nonsensical to him. Life amongst us neurotypicals (that's what people with AS call us) must be equally nonsensical at times. Despite my life-long attempts to teach him, he doesn't really understand why his dad gets so angry at him or what hurts my feelings. He's brilliant at understanding scientific theories. But he doesn't generalize emotional reactions from one person to the next.

One of the best authors on AS is a woman who has it, Liane Holliday Willey. I've found her books "Pretending to be Normal" and "Asperger Syndrome in the Family: Redefining Normal" have helped me so much to walk for just a second in J's shoes. I can read him passages from these books and he tells me, "Yes, that's it!"

But those are just moments. I can empathize and sympathize with my boy, almost man. Even as a shy introvert, it is beyond my imagination to live in a world where relationships are rarely comforting and always confusing.

Just thinking about him today. :-)

Until tomorrow,


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