When a child is born, as a parent we see only perfection – a beautiful being created by US! As they begin to grow and develop their own little (or large) personality, we begin to learn about them as a person separate from us.
So, what do you do when “they” tell you that your child will never drive, never finish school, never do all the things that you’ve dreamed for them? You fight back.
At 3 years old, Joshua was adorable and precocious. His verbal capability was well beyond his years – he spoke like a little adult. He would ride in the tow truck with his Dad, entertaining customers for hours. No matter how long the ride, he could carry on a conversation well beyond what any child his age should be able to, with appropriate adult vocabulary. In relating to children his own age, he would often be silent and stay apart, enjoying spending time with the adults instead. We began to realise around that time that there was something a bit different about this little boy of ours.
By the time he was 5, without seeing an emblem or words, Joshua could identify almost any vehicle by make and model. One day, we were sitting at McDonald’s for lunch. During that 30 minutes, he accurately named each vehicle going by. Despite this phenomenal ability to retain specific things, he struggled with others. He could read digital clocks but struggled mightily with analogue. Things that required manual dexterity took longer to learn.
At school, “homework” was a nightmare. Worksheets that required using objects like pennies for counting, created hours of frustration. Then one night my husband had an epiphany, bringing in a huge box of Matchbox cars. Immediately, Joshua used the cars to count, doing his homework in a flash. His teacher adapted his school environment using the same method. We realised in that the “way” Joshua processed information was different, but that he did process it ALL, and then some.
As Joshua got older, he would encounter much larger challenges than pennies. After 6 years we got a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum. And were advised about all the “nevers”. Fortunately, we all disagreed, including Joshua.
When people declared he was too much of a wimp to play high school football, he donned the uniform, did the gruelling double sessions, and played for 2 months, at the end of which he said, “See? I could do it – I just didn’t want to.”
Determined to prove everyone wrong, Joshua graduated with EXTRA CREDITS, drives any vehicle, including his Harley, tractors, and commercial trucks, and works full time.
Looking back, Joshua regrets, to a degree, our decision to get a diagnosis because, in his words, “Diagnosis sometimes stigmatises a person to the point that people won’t offer them opportunities because they assume they’re too stupid, uneducated or unable to comprehend what they want to do. Just because I don’t do something, doesn’t mean I can’t.”
“Your success and your happiness lie in you.” – Helen Keller