During the summer of 2005, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. I heard about this condition for the first time from my psychologist when he was telling me who I was more so than anyone ever had before.
But I didn’t take it seriously. After all, I was 21 years old at the time, I already knew who I was, and even though I had Asperger’s syndrome, it wasn’t a defining aspect of my identity. Right? Sure, I knew (and still know) that there are 86,400 seconds in a day, and the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. But I didn’t realize how different I am, how much my brain works differently than others. And I didn’t accept the fact that I’m not normal.
When parents are told that their child has autism, that puts them in unfamiliar territory. They don’t know what to do and will listen to any advice given by their psychologist. If this describes you, first of all, don’t worry. Because I have good news!
There is a discussion board online for people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome called wrongplanet.net. That’s not the domain name that I would have chosen. We may have to adapt with an awkward personality and struggle to interact with others in a social setting, but this is still very much the right planet to live on.
Asperger’s is not a disadvantage if you know what it means. By understanding what it is, what it isn’t, and how to deal with it, having a child with autism can be very rewarding. Dr. Vernon Smith is a Nobel Prize Winner in Economics with Asperger’s, and he applied his superior ability to use numbers in a way that most people couldn’t possibly imagine. People with Asperger’s have brilliant minds that have been used in various fields, and your child can do the same.
A child with autism faces many wide-ranging challenges. Often, one of those challenges is academics. I failed to reach my potential for more than a decade as a student in middle school, high school, and college. But I didn’t know why. Afterward, I realized that it was because I wasn’t confident in myself as a student.
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During the whole time, I thought that my poor performance as a student caused my lack of confidence, but it was my lack of confidence that caused my poor performance. Going into every test I had, I felt, oh boy, this is going to be hard. Having confidence in oneself is the most basic concept to learn, so much so that it’s taught to elementary school students in the book The Little Engine That Could with the words “I think I can, I think I can.”
And if you are the parent of an autistic child who is struggling in school, my biggest piece of advice to you is to teach your son or daughter to be confident. Your child needs to know that he or she has what it takes to get all A’s on that next report card. Otherwise, your child will never reach his/her full potential in school.
On a wall somewhere in your house, have a sign that says CONFIDENCE. Demonstrate to your autistic child that you have confidence, just from your attitude. Constantly.
And remove any doubt that your autistic child has that he or she will succeed. Once you do, he/she will be on a path to have remarkable grades and even more remarkable career with an exceptional brain. Because your child getting diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome is good news.
This article was featured in Issue 91 – Great Back-to-School Strategies