by Carissa Cropper
WE BEGAN OUR JOURNEY INTO my son’s fascinating world on October 16, 2010, after having a conference with his teacher. Sh described Tyler as being a great student, smart, and intelligent. She said that he would use his vocabulary words constantly throughout the day in an effort to master them and the way his mind worked out a math problem was truly unconventional.
All the things that a mother and father want to hear about their child. However, she had several concerns with his social interactions with the other students. She noticed that he found it difficult to make connections with other children in his class.
Oftentimes he would become overwhelmed with emotion over the smallest of mistakes and he would exhibit little quirks and facial expressions when he was placed in an uncomfortable situation. I agreed that I had noticed some of the same things, along with other behaviors, at home.
His teacher suggested that we go and talk to his doctor about our concerns to see if Tyler was just a “shy” child or was it some- thing else going on. After seeing his doctor it was confirmed that my son had Asperger’s Syndrome.
This form of Autism is a high functioning form that focuses on more social behavior than anything else. We had to begin teaching our child how to cope with “scary” situations that he was faced with in a daily basis. We had to begin to grasp that when a child with Asperger’s Syndrome tells you that he’s afraid – it means that their mind has imagined the worst thing in the world happening in that situation – so much so that they would rather not even attempt it then face their fear. I learned then that if I did not educate myself on the way to help him better cope in everyday life that this could cripple him, and that was just not an option.
The first thing we taught Tyler was to embrace his fears. My mother taught him to ask himself this question, “What’s the worst thing that can happen and can you deal with that?” If the answer was “yes” then that’s something you can do. If not, then lets go back to the drawing board. We also taught him to “talk” – don’t just agree. You have feelings about things and they are important. He learned that he has a right to feel anyway he feels, even if it is afraid. The last thing that we worked on is accepting your “quirks”. Sometimes when Tyler is uncomfortable he will hold his hands straight out to the side, he also makes awkward noises at the ends of his sentences and his sporadic tongue thrust that often come out when someone is really crowding his space are what make him Tyler.
My daughter often tells him that he’s awesome because he always thinks for himself. He never allows anyone to tell him how to feel about something, and she believes that makes him strong.
I believe that I have been blessed with a very unique gift. My son challenges how I think and how I view things and people everyday. He is my reason for educating others on the importance of acknowledging differences and the acceptance of those differences. This journey is exciting and we welcome the challenges that come with the territory, as Tyler says ” this ride that were on comes with twist and turns, but you just need to wear your seatbelt!”
Carissa Cropper is a Baton Rouge Comedienne and starring in New Venture Theatre’s production of “Step Off”