Brendan is our son. He was an early talker. As a toddler, he used big words when talking. He loved talking about trains and Egypt. He did it for hours. Older adults found him delightful.
Kids his age mostly ignored him. And he seemed to ignore them.
He was sensitive to sound. Loud noises distracted him. At around age 2, he started waving his hands. That became hand flapping when he was excited or stressed.
He was quiet and well-behaved most of the time. He was fun and funny. He memorized entire movies after watching once or twice.
He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (now high-functioning autism) when he was 7 years old.
I recently read that high-functioning autism doesn’t mean less autistic or that it is easier. Brendan’s challenges were, and are, real. While he can talk endlessly about certain subjects, he has difficulty with basic communication. Expressing information about pain, sharing concerns, and real communication is a daily struggle.
He rarely shows just how stressed he is. His autism is somewhat hidden.
Some might consider him to be odd. They may find his behaviors to be rude. Family members through the years expressed that he needed discipline. They didn’t understand that he was constantly being disciplined. But that negative corrections just didn’t work with him.
He is funny, kind, and curious. He’s also single-minded, more comfortable at home in a quiet environment, and prefers family and his pets over most other people.
Brendan’s school struggles are real. His reading skills are amazing, but he is unable to put more than one or two sentences together. Math is difficult. He is disorganized. He rarely gets home with important papers or homework assignments. He is mostly a visual learner. He does best when all steps of an activity are put in writing. Though he hates having visual schedules to work by.
Brendan has made great strides over the years. He’s still kind and smart. He’s a voracious reader and has expanded his reading subjects. He now even reads novels. Not just books on Egypt or amphibians or trains.
Our hope is that he will find a career path, whether in college or a trade program. So no, high-functioning autism isn’t easier or less autistic. But with continued support, Brendan will find his way in the world.