The Different Problem

The Internet gossip mill is talking about whether or not Marissa Mayers has Aspergers. It’s not a new topic, but it’s come back around again because of a profile in Vanity Fair.

At the same time, Steve and I have to decide whether we should keep Ian in the public schools or whether we should put him a separate school for kids with high functioning autism. He can keep up with the mainstream academics and blends so well that the typical kids don’t know he’s different. Last night, a girl called the house and asked him out on a date. (Don’t underestimate the power of Ian’s blue eyes. Jonah was a little jealous.)

But he IS different from the other kids and it might be nice for him to be in a school with other kids who are like him. Where he doesn’t have to apologize or explain things. Where I don’t have to be put in the awkward position of calling a girl’s mother and telling her, “it’s okay that Ian goes to lunch with your daughter, but you should know that he has Asperger’s.”

At some point, autism will be an acceptable difference that won’t merit a headline on the Internet gossip websites. But we’re not there yet.

13 Thoughts on “The Different Problem

  1. scantee on December 6, 2013 at 2:22 pm said:

    It seems like the mainstream/don’t mainstream decision depends a lot on your family’s timeline for getting Ian to the point where he can live an independent life. If you anticipate that Ian will have some degree of self-sufficiency when he graduates high school (say, he lives at home but goes to college) then it makes sense to have him transition to a mainstream environment now so that he isn’t blindsided by the expectations of typical kids. If you anticipate that after high school he’ll have a slower transition to self-sufficiency, then not mainstreaming him now seems totally reasonable.

    If you mainstream him and it doesn’t work can he still go back to the specialized school? It would suck if one of these decisions forecloses on the other in the long-term (or, more likely, it will continue to be an option but going back might be too much of a long-term logistical hassle.

  2. My experience has been that my kids do know who in school has a diagnosis, including Aspergers. But they don’t care. If the kid shares their interests, they figure out how to be friends, including how to let the kid be who he is. Why do you need to share Ian’s diagnosis with his friend’s mother? I guess it would be helpful if you are telling her how to handle specific issues if they arise on her watch. Thinking back, I have sometimes known via my kids about their friend’s diagnosis, sometimes figured it out from behaviors and rolled with it, only once got a call from a Mom to share info.

    • “Why do you need to share Ian’s diagnosis with his friend’s mother? ”

      Because if you don’t, there could be greater problems. Two years ago I was co-running a Destination Imagination team with another woman. She knew E has Asperger’s, but the other parents didn’t. Long story short, they kicked him off the team. I really regret not disclosing (and, actually, I thought I had, but I apparently wasn’t clear enough).

  3. J Liedl on December 6, 2013 at 4:47 pm said:

    This is why I’m happy that Youngest’s high school has a well-established ASD program. The entire school knows that these are their peers on the spectrum and so, when one of them’s in the line-up for graduation or the awards ceremonies, they’re gracefully accommodated. That’s nice!

  4. Cranberry on December 6, 2013 at 7:41 pm said:

    I just thought the Vanity Fair was a bunch of quotes from backstabbing anonymous cowards. I didn’t get the feeling that whether she has Aspergers or not was much of a focus of the piece.

    I would not transfer a child who can handle mainstream academics, who has a girlfriend, and whom the typical kids don’t pick out as different. I wouldn’t call the girl’s mother; why? High school relationships last about two weeks for most kids. For all you know, the girlfriend might be on the spectrum herself.

    • Ian is a middle schooler (right?), so the relationships are presumably even shorter lived.

      One possible issue here is that some Asperger behavior might freak the mom out, if she doesn’t know what it is. Some fairly normal behavior might make the mom see him as an obsessive junior stalker. In case of a break up from the girl’s end, I’m afraid there would need to be extensive coaching on social norms. Lord knows average kids struggle with this stuff.

  5. A compromise for Ian might be to do some sort of specialized high school that naturally draws a lot of spectrumish kids.

  6. I think Scantee has the right idea.

    My son was fully mainstreamed and now is negotiating college beautifully (lives on campus, gets good grades). He was (and is) accepted and supported by his typical peers but doesn’t have as many tight friends as he’d like. I wonder if this would have been different if he’d gone to a special school? Who knows.

  7. I want to add that after four years in a big public high school, he had a super-easy transition to college. So there’s that.

  8. The suggestion that people in power who are condescending and inconsiderate sometimes have aspergers, is, I think, a form reconciling cognitive dissonance. Mayer was obnoxious to you and you had to deal with it, so you decide that her behavior can be medicalized, and then you don’t have to fell like the powerless person who can’t storm out.

    A savvy marketer of herself who grabs more than her share of credit, cares deeply about her perceived self, and reinvents herself as needed — what about that say “aspergers”. It’s reinventing the word to mean a sometimes self-centered person with power.

  9. Macaroni on December 7, 2013 at 11:02 pm said:

    I’m so excited to hear this for Ian :-)

  10. Louisa on December 8, 2013 at 1:57 pm said:

    Had a conversation with my boss recently about our families in which I mentioned that my oldest had a diagnosis, and his reaction was “Actually, everyone you work with has already figured that out, and we’re all okay with it. We love him and think he’s a terrific kid. We’ve all been making accomodations for awhile now already. Didn’t you notice?” (Just little stuff. THInk of the scene in Parenthood where Max goes into the photography shop and starts touching stuff that isn’t his. My son has probably done that in all my colleagues’ offices at one time or another.) It made me realize that most of the time people have figured it out already and they either are or aren’t OK with it. So much for ‘the big reveal’.

  11. Louisa on December 8, 2013 at 1:57 pm said:

    You also need to be a lot more careful with using the term now that some stupid people will hear it and think “Sandy Hook.”

Leave a Reply

Post Navigation