Tuesday, January 23, 2007

My Little Genius

When my youngest son was about two it became apparent to us that he was different than the other two in a slightly peculiar way. All our kids have their own ways of being special, but we could tell Ryan was something else. He became fixated on sweepers when he was two. He would push the sweeper around all day, or find something he could substitute for a sweeper and push that around. If there was a commercial on tv that had a sweeper in it he would stop what he was doing and point to the tv saying "sweeper? That's a sweeeper. Yeah that's a sweeeeper". I remember once when he was throwing a fit in Sears I took him to the vacuum cleaner display and his interest was immediately shifted to pushing the demos around the sales floor while my wife finished shopping.
When he was four his interest was shifted to the weather. He would watch the Weather Channel all the time, and he knew all about clouds, tornadoes, thunderstorms and most everything a seasoned weatherman knows. He loved books about it too, so we got him some with pictures and read to him. One day he came with my wife to see me at work. He started telling everyone in the break room that they'd better be careful because there was a supercell developing that might bring heavy thunderstorms. The people there were slightly astonished that a four year old was giving them such detailed weather forecasting.
His next obsession came when he was about six. We had gotten him an electronic board that had all the presidents on it. When you pushed a certain button it gave a lot of different facts about a president. He would stay in his room for hours on end playing with that, and within weeks he could tell you any fact about any president. He could name them in order, tell what their wife's name was, what years they served, where they were from ... everything that was on that board he knew. Expanding on that resource, we got him one of those boards that had states and the capitals, along with information about each state. He memorized everything about the states too. He had started school by this time and it seemed like the routine of his classes had an adverse affect on his learning, as he seemed to pick certain things he liked and excelled at them, but lagged behind in others. He started having attention problems in class, and we took him to a child psychologist who first treated him for Attention Deficit Disorder and prescribed Ritalin. That didn't seem to help, and made him very emotional. A year or so later he was re-diagnosed with Asparger's Syndrome, a form of autism. This diagnosis seemed to fit his symptoms, explaining his behavior and lack of concentration.
The last two or three years he has frustrated his teachers. While he's staring out the window or has his attention anywhere except his studies, he somehow manages to absorb the lessons and usually knows most of the material from his day in class. However, he has a lot of trouble taking the time to do things like, write neatly, and even though he's reading at a ninth grade+ level it's a struggle to get him to pick up a book. Unfortunately, now his obsession is with video games, and he can tell you anything about the ones he plays, but it makes it even harder to tear him away from them to do homework.
As he's getting older - he's 11 1/2 - It's getting more and more difficult to direct his interests in a way that will help him to learn and grow in a positive direction, but as a parent it's my job to keep trying.


Blogger Laura said...

I really feel for you. Being a parent is one of the most difficult jobs there is. The only thing I can say is get as much information as you can about his problem and just try to have alot of patience and understanding with the child.

11:40 PM  
Blogger Michelle's Spell said...

Hi Tim!
Loved this post. Like Laura, I think being a parent is the toughest thing in the world. Your son sounds lovely and exciting -- it's just hard in our educational system to assist kids who are gifted and/or challenged in certain ways.

6:30 AM  
Blogger Sheryl said...

Try to find out if your school system has any support programs for autism. If not, check the local universities. Aspergers can be especiallly frustrating because kids who have it are typically incredibly bright but also unfocused unless something really interests them. Add to that the social difficulties that typically occur, and you have a mess, especially entering adolescence.

There are some good resources that exist for parents of kids with Aspergers. I have a contact who runs a school for high-functioning kids with autism. I'll get in touch with him and see if he can give me some suggestions for you.

4:18 PM  

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