Obsessions, Interests, or Talents??

Obsessions, Interests, or Talents??

As I’m sure you are aware (and if you’re not, you will be in a minute), one of the special traits of someone with Asperger’s is an intense interest in a particular thing. Or, could it be considered an obsession? I’d like to think of it as a talent. Either way, this can be a blessing if harnessed and nurtured.

My son’s ‘interests’ started at a young age with ceiling fans. I remember when that particular obsession started. When we went to church he would lie in my lap and stare at the ceiling fans during the services. As time went on, every time we walked into a building he would point out the ceiling fans. My son didn’t start talking until he was 3 which apparently is a normal trait in kids with Asperger’s (we didn’t know that at the time). His only form of communication was saying “gah”. We would walk into someone’s house and if he saw a ceiling fan he would point to it with excitement and say “gah!”. LOL

At the age of 4 he encountered the amazing world of car air fresheners. His obsession with car air fresheners created scenarios to where he would ask if he could stop at every gas station we drove past so he could go and look at their air-fresheners. During this same time period he also started an intense interest with solar lights. (The type of lights that you would use in landscaping). He would get air-fresheners and solar lights for Christmas along with standard presents like toy trucks and cars but his total focus was on lights and air fresheners. We used to chuckle about it but never really thought it was related to anything other than a passing phase. We never discouraged any of these interests since it didn’t hurt him or anyone else. We just thought it was something that he’d eventually get bored with and move on.

Although the regular toys were never on his radar, he did find one thing that caught his attention. Lincoln logs! He would sit for hours building things. When I saw what he would do with Lincoln logs I started to realize how truly special he was. He didn’t sit and create one room cabins like most kids would do. He built entire cities without any direction or instructions. Then he would break out and create room sized art. One day he created a huge flower on the floor of the family room. All of this at the age of 6!   I want to mention that I’m not an artist and neither is his mom. I’m a musician but have no drawing or sculpting abilities whatsoever.

When he turned 8 I bought him a toy potter’s wheel for Christmas because I knew he had such an intense interest in building and creating things with his hands. Along with Lincoln logs, he also loved play-doe and I thought maybe he would really like to work with clay. As it turns out, I was right! 🙂   He wore that toy wheel out in 2 weeks so I bought him an actual potter’s wheel and he’s been creating pottery every day for the last 7 years. Thank you YouTube!   (he watches pottery videos on YouTube obsessively to learn new tricks and techniques)  I was able to turn his obsession into a creative passion. We started to display and sell his work at various art shows and it’s so amazing to see his face light up when he demonstrates his pottery wheel skills. As it turns out, he loves to teach! We’ve also had the opportunity to meet some great local potters and his self confidence soars when he is greeted with open arms. Together we found something in this world that other people love as much as he does.

My advice to parents and those who are experiencing similar situations is to get creative and harness those intense interests. If there’s an interest in video games, look into computer programming. If there’s an obsession with food, look into cooking classes. If there’s an interest in carrots, look into gardening. There are so many areas that can be explored if you just get a little creative and don’t view this as something that will eventually go away. These kids are brilliant and if we’re not capturing that brilliance, we are really cheating them out of a great life. These kids are future scientists, inventors, musicians, computer programmers, professors, and artists. They just need a little direction and some help to get to the next level.

Mason’s obsessions always seemed to be centered on the sensory system. Sight (solar lights), smell (air fresheners), touch (clay), and sound (he plays guitar and sings). Children with Asperger’s have a heightened sensory system so this all makes sense now. It wasn’t until he was diagnosed with Asperger’s that we even considered his situation to be any other than a phase. Thank God his pediatrician suggested that we get him tested.  We were finally able to look at his intense interests as more than just a passing phase. It was (and still is) his life!

I’m curious to hear from others who have encountered various intense interests. I have some friends whose young son was obsessed with carrots and the color orange. I love these stories because it helps us to feel as though we’re not the only ones experiencing these wonderful situations.

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Back to School Already??

Here we are in the heart of summer July 28th and the back-to-school ads are starting to appear.  Wow I have to admit that still makes me nervous and I’ve been out of school for a very long time.  LOL   Now that I have children, that nervousness creeps up on me every year.  Even though my youngest (Caden) doesn’t have any challenges in life and in fact does quite well in school, that doesn’t alleviate the tension that creeps up when I envision the struggles my son Mason has experienced since he started kindergarten 10 years ago.  We always knew he was a special kid but didn’t realize the struggles he would experience when placed into a classroom with other kids.

It was shortly after he started kindergarten that we realized how different he was from other kids.  Very isolated.  Very internal.  Very cerebral.  VERY different interests from other kids.  (more on that in a moment) It was clear that he really didn’t know how to act with other kids and didn’t have much interest with interacting.  When other kids tried to interact with him he had such focused interests other than the mainstream “normal” things that kids play with (balls, trucks, hotwheels etc.) that he immediately looked out of place.  His obsessions started at a young age and continue on to this day.  When he was very young (before he could talk) he was obsessed with air fresheners, solar lights, and ceiling fans and I’ll elaborate more on the obsessions in future posts.  I witnessed him in his classroom one day when a nice little boy approached him and asked if he wanted to play with his dump truck.  Mason politely answered “no thank you but would you like to see my air fresher collection?”.    The little boy looked at him, shrugged his shoulders and walked away.  Now to me; since he had been obsessed with air freshers for the previous few years, it wasn’t unusual for him to want to show off his collection.  It was at that point, I realized how challenging this was going to be as he started to interact with other kids his age.  While other kids have no interest in air fresheners, solar lights, or ceiling fans……my kid could spot a vanilla scented air freshener hanging in an oncoming car across 2 lanes of divided highway driving 65 mph. LOL   I know this might sound crazy to most, but to me, that’s a pretty powerful observation skill for a 4 year old to have.  I admit it’s not a skill that will win him a lot of friends at that age but if I’m looking to celebrate the little victories in life, this was one of them.

School for the last 10 years has been an interesting adventure.  Although his mom and I are now divorced, we still work very closely to assure our kids are taken care of.  This is especially true for Mason as we try very hard to make sure he’s not overlooked in the mainstream school systems.  My advice to families experiencing similar situations, make sure you are on the same page with your child’s teacher from day 1.  Be open and honest with your child’s habits or tendencies that might stand out as being different from the rest.  For us, as I believe it is for most kids with Aspergers, is the lack of eye contact.  We made sure to let the teacher know that although he may not look at you while you’re talking with him or explaining things, that doesn’t mean he’s not listening to you.  He absorbs everything in his own way.  We also made sure that he was sitting in the front of the room which helps to limit distractions.  Front row is best!  🙂  It was also important that teacher knew he was (and still is) very sensitive about his differences he should NOT be made “an example of”.  I have to admit that we learned most of our lessons the hard way.  Another item that we discovered was a difficulty in taking tests.  He seemed to do better taking tests when he was alone (no distraction).   At the beginning of each school year, we make sure the teacher is aware of this challenge and then ask if the teacher could provide a quiet place to take tests.  This can be a little tricky because on one hand you don’t want your child to be singled out but on the other hand you want to assure they are given an opportunity to succeed.   We had one teacher agree to allow Mason to take tests during lunch breaks. (lunch breaks are an entirely different topic that I’ll cover in future posts).   We’ve had some great teachers and some ‘not-so-great’ teachers.  Don’t be afraid to ask for another teacher if you’re not happy.   We have changed teachers on a few occasions and thank God we did.

Biggest lesson and piece of advice is to communicate openly with the administrative staff (principals, vice principals etc).   They really do want the best of our children.  It took us a few  years to figure this out but if administrators know what you’re needs are, they can help recommend the best teachers and ultimately control which classroom your child will end up.

This year Mason starts high school as a freshman.  Wow where did time go??   Seems like just yesterday that he was trying to showcase his air-freshener collection to a classmate in kindergarten.  This year brings a new school…new kids…..new teachers.  Hopefully a new start on life with new friends and no bullies.  More and more and more posts to come as we live life and cherish every day with our blessed children.

Peace,

Kevin

Great Day!!!

Greetings!

Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to read my blog.  As a parent of a child with Asperger’s, my goal is help other families by sharing our experiences.  I know how scary, overwhelming, challenging, and rewarding this challenge can be.  When my son Mason was first diagnosed at the age of 5 in 2005, I had never heard of Asperger’s and when I went online to research the situation, I didn’t find any information that could help.  Imagine would it would be like to hear that you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and then you go online to research the particular type of cancer only to find out that there isn’t any information about it.  That’s what it felt like back in 2005.   Here we are in 2015 and there is more information available but for some reason Asperger’s is getting stuffed into the category of Autism.   I’m going to scream this at the top of lungs and it won’t be the last time you hear me say this…….are you ready…….”ASPERGERS IS NOT AUTISM!!!!!”.  I hate the word “syndrome”, I’m not a fan of the term “disease”.  My goal is to change the perception of Asperger’s to be celebrated as a blessing.

The purpose of this blog is to show that Asperger’s doesn’t have to be a death sentence but (in fact) can be a blessing.  Our son has been blessed with the gift of music and art.  I’ll share our journey and hope that you will share yours as well.  Together we can laugh, cry, and celebrate the gift that God has blessed us with.

For the last 15 years since my son was born, I’ve experienced every emotion imaginable.  I’ve learned patience, I’ve learned love, I’ve learned to ask questions of our physicians and not take their advice as gospel.  I’ve learned to work closer with the school system to help them to understand how my son learns.  I’ve learned how to teach my younger son who doesn’t have Asperger’s how to protect his older brother.  Unfortunately bullying tends to go hand-hand with Asperger’s and we’ll discuss that in this blog as well.

If you’re reading this post, it probably means you are close with someone who is blessed with Asperger’s.  It probably also means you are aware that people who are blessed with Asperger’s tend to have significant passions and attachments to certain things or actions.  It’s not uncommon for these individuals to be obsessed with things like the weather or music or air fresheners (my son was obsessed with air fresheners when he was younger….LOL).  We’ll explore and share those experiences and hopefully together we can learn how to harness those obsessions and turn them into ‘blessings’.  My son turned his obsessions into art and music and now at the age of 14 he’s been creating pottery on a potter’s wheel since he was 8.  (in fact as I type, he’s on his potter’s wheel now).  🙂   When he’s not throwing pots, he’s playing his guitar and singing.  The picture of the pot on this site is one of the pots he created a few years ago at the age of 11.  I’m not a potter and neither is his mother.  He taught himself by watching YouTube videos.

Let’s take this journey together and make a difference in this world.  There are more kids being diagnosed today than ever before.  If I can help make a difference in just one person’s life, at least I’ll know that my time in this world has not been wasted.  If you have a topic that you’d like to discuss please let me know.  I want this to be a meeting place for anyone and everyone who has an interest in Asperger’s.  There are many groups available for autism but not many are Asperger specific.

God bless,

Kevin