My son was five years and five months old when we were given his diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome, that was fourteen years ago and hardly anyone really knew what that meant exactly. At the time, he was in kindergarten and the school system was fighting to remove him from his integrated classroom and send him to a collaborative program out of district. I fought them tooth and nail becuase I could not (more likely would not) see my son as any different from the other butt scratching, nose picking, and hyper active five-year-old boys surrounding us. I won that battle and boy was I proud of myself. Back in those days, my son had friends, I met other moms, we were included in birthday parties, play dates, and outings.
I made the mistake of confiding in one of those mothers. I really believed this woman Christine and I were friends. Christine seemed alright with my son prior to his diagnosis, but afterwards our time together dwindled and so did our time as part of the accepted group at our school.
Times have changed since then, Christine and her family moved away, but we never quite got an invitation back into the accepted group of parents. Having a child with special needs in a community lacking the proper knowledge can lead to parents being isolated. In my experience, once your child is labled as different your world changes forever. Play dates become a thing of the past, or if they do happen it is with the other special needs students. Asperger's kids have limited social skills, often times a play date actually consisted of my son showing off a video game and then retreatign to his room, leaving me to entertain an Aspie kid for 45 minutes to an hour before his mother arrived to pick him up.
Eventually our family decided along with the school district that our crowded middle school was not the proper place for my son and we moved him to an out of district placement. My son flourished in this new school environment, but bad feelings and a lack of true community drove me to remove his sisters from our local public school system. Looking back now, I am not sure if I made the correct decision because the girls have lacked havig friends in their community and neighborhood. However, travelling to school has afforded us the opportunity to be free of the sterotype and stigma attached to our family. The pros in effect outweigh the cons.
I am heartened to see that our school community and many others have finally managed to keep children on the spectrum in our school district. I am not so sure about the stigma of being an Aspie parent. I admit I found communtiy in support groups, at conferences and online but the parents were just as exhausted as I still am. My wish is some day people will understand what it truly is like to parent a child on the spectrum. We are moms who need friends, support and the occasional invite
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