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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Spy in my Child's Brain

So I recently read a book that has left me thinking for literally weeks now.  I then started following the author's blog and now I'm pretty convinced this is a person with many answers.  The book, Finding Kansas by Aaron Likens is about "Living and Decoding Asperger's Syndrome".  If any of you have been following the news lately, you might know that Asperger's syndrome is no longer considered a diagnosis as it falls on the Autism spectrum and in the future will be labeled as such.  Anyway, the author Aaron Likens, was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome as a young adult.  This means he went through his entire childhood not knowing why he thought differently then others.

When Likens received his diagnosis, his father handed him a journal and told him to start writing about it.  Finding Kansas is basically those journal entries.  I think what I found most interesting about this book was the raw emotion and insightful discoveries he made as he learned about his thought process.  There were so many references that really lit a light bulb for me in explaining some of my son's behaviors.  Here are just a few.

In his book, Likens talks about this pop can that sat on his television for the longest time.  It has been left there by a friend and Likens never moved it because it reminded him of that time he spent with his friend.  One day his mother tidied up his room and removed the can.  He was so distraught over this little can because for him, it tied him to his friend.  Perhaps this explains why I can not remove a single thing from Brayden's room without asking him first.  The times I have removed them, he has spouted off some remote connection to that item that I ruined by discarding it.  Now if he makes the decision to remove it, that is a different story because he can decide if he needs it for that memory.  This is why I am certain that his aquarium ticket stubs from three years ago will never leave his room.

On his blog, Likens talks about how calming a road trip was for him.  Brayden is our best traveler and always has been.  The only time he complains is when we stop and make him get out.  So why does Liken's enjoy these trips?  Because he knows his parents will be there from start to finish.  They will not have to go to work, run to the store or leave the house for some other obligation.  Everything is stable and consistent in a car traveling to a destination.  There are no transitions in the car. Makes total sense.

A third connection from Liken's writings that I found interesting was how he interpreted his inability to socialize.  This has always been a huge area of concern with Brayden.  He is a totally different child at home than he is in a social situation and there are very few people that he can actually have a conversation with outside of his family.  Likens experienced this same frustration growing up.  In his words, he found it difficult to engage in a conversation because of how fast his mind work.  He over thinks everything.  So in conversation, he has to think about what the person is saying and then his response and then predict what the person's response will be to his response.  If you add another person to the conversation...well, you can just imagine all the thinking that goes on.  This would completely explain why Brayden only listens in social situations.

Along this same line is probably one of the most interesting aspects about Likens that appears to be similar for Brayden.  Likens is a well known speaker for Autism.  Yes, he is a public speaker who speaks to thousands of professionals, parents and students.  He describes himself as an actor playing out the role.  When public speaking, there is no conversation.  It is almost always one way.  You speak about what you know most about.  We have found that Brayden has no trouble talking in front of his class or speaking in his school play.  This has puzzled those who have labeled him as "painfully shy".  If I look at it from Liken's perspective, it makes total sense.

I have only read the book once and given all the insight it has given, I think it deserves a second glance.  What do you think about my connections?   Reading this book almost made me feel like I have a spy in my son's brain who might be able to help me understand him better.  What do you think?

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