'Your son has Asperger's."
My arms raised in triumph as if I had just scored the
winning goal at the World Cup. Oops. I quickly dropped my arms.
My husband and I had finally learned that our son had, as
we had suspected for years, Asperger's syndrome.
Were we devastated by the news delivered by the room of
white coats with a multitude of letters after their names at
Children's Memorial Hospital? No, not at all.
We were relieved.
Sean was our first child. He was a fussy baby. He didn't
like to make messes. He liked his toys just so. I remember having
to slowly introduce light to him in the mornings. As an infant, he
would actually sleep at my large family gatherings. He made all the
So did we suspect anything was amiss? No…
Not until that first day of 3-year-old
What I had passed off as a child's quirkiness was actually
called stimming. Sean would stop playing, beat himself about the
head and chest and then, without skipping a beat, go back to doing
what he was doing.
His sitting on his head on the couch (like Mork from Ork
in the '70s sitcom "Mork & Mindy") was another sign of the type
of stimulation Sean needed.
The lack of eye contact was not simply shyness, the
answering of "great" to every question not a sign of a precocious
Something was amiss with our beautiful boy.
One evening I came across a magazine article from the
Sunday paper. The boy in it had Asperger's syndrome. I read it and
said, "Oh my, Sean has Asperger's."
I showed it to my husband, Rich. His first reaction was,
"No way." And then he read it.
Sean had Asperger's.
We went to the school. We went to the psychologists. We
went to everyone we knew. We read. We copied and left notes. We did
everything we could.
Only our pediatrician listened.
It took us a long time to get through the waiting lists at
Children's Memorial. During those months that turned into years, I
heard every comment from, "You need to be a better parent," to,
"You spend too much time with him. You need to get a job and put
him in day care."
My declarations of "But we're getting him tested…" were
only met with "Mrs. Lehning, you're in denial. He's a behavior
No, he's not.
He's my son.
So on that day years ago, we not only got a diagnosis, but
also validation. We trusted our instincts. We knew our
And while Sean having Asperger's has made for some
extremely challenging days and nights, it has also meant that we
look at life differently.
We stop. We slow down. We celebrate our
He's our amazing, wonderful son. And in our eyes, he's
Frances is the mother of Sean, Carissa and Ashley. She lives in Elk Grove Village and blogs at mynameisnotautism.blogspot.com.
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