SUMMER 2018 42
present these high-functioning adults as
unable to understand sarcasm, jokes and
other shades of normal social interaction
while working as scientists, doctors and
While the first part is true in my son’s
case, the professional picture does not
reflect real life.
The common belief is that Abraham
Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Mozart and
Apple’s Steve Jobs had Asperger’s. But a
top-notch brain doesn’t equal a top-notch
job. My son has fought his way to a good
job, and it hasn’t been an easy journey.
One of the 10 myths on Autism
Calgary’s website is that those with high-functioning autism can find jobs and be
self-supporting. The fact is 90 per cent
of such adults are not working.
As was the case with my son,
Asperger’s is often not diagnosed until
a child or adult has serious difficulties
in school, at work or in everyday social
situations. They are often diagnosed when
seeking help for anxiety or depression.
Kyle was an engaging, loving child.
But as the mother of a son with
Asperger’s Syndrome, the saga of our
family’s three decades of frustration,
heartbreak, laughter and love seems
incomplete when told by others.
When my oldest son was diagnosed
with Asperger’s in adulthood, he said to
me after a counselling session: “Mom, I
don’t understand why you don’t already
just know this, but she (the counseller)
says I might want to tell you that I
love you.” This was followed by a rib-bruising hug from my bear-sized son.
I did know Kyle loved me. But this
expression of common, socially expected
emotion is just one of many things that
baffle my now 31-year-old in his travels
through expectations of “normalcy.” It’s
not that he doesn’t care about others.
He just doesn’t express those feelings in
ways others expect.
Asperger’s Syndrome technically no
longer exists. It was one of several autism
subtypes that in 2013 the American
Psychiatric Association (APA) made part
of the broad autism spectrum disorder
(ASD) diagnosis. Those with Asperger’s
(I will use this term because that is how
my son identifies) are considered to be on
the spectrum’s “high-functioning” end.
Autism affects how the brain works.
It can cause problems in thinking,
feeling, language and the ability to relate
to others. Its symptoms and severity
This complex disorder is on the
public’s radar now more than ever.
Popular TV shows with characters
who have autism include The Big Bang
Theory, The Good Doctor and Atypical.
Bestselling books such as The Rosie Project
and The Rosie Effect have also helped
raise awareness. When I watch these
shows or read the Rosie books, I laugh,
but it can feel like tears.
I see my son in the characters—
extremely intelligent but struggling with
everyday communication. He simply
cannot read the intentions of the people
he calls “muggles.” (Others in the autism
community call them “neurotypicals,”
or “nypicals.”) The shows and books
It’s not that Kyle doesn’t care about
others. He just doesn’t express
feelings in ways others expect
It feels as though this is not my story to tell