He was slow to walk, but when he did,
he ran. He was slow to talk, but when he
did it was in full sentences. He was slow
to read, but this son of two journalists
then became immersed in long,
He had trouble focusing in school,
at least on subjects he didn’t find
interesting. People with Asperger’s
are often first diagnosed with attention
deficit disorder (ADD) as Kyle was in
Grade 5, or attention deficit hyperactivity
My son’s intelligence (and resulting
high marks) shone in areas he was
interested in such as science and math.
But his travel through school was rocky.
The system is not designed for those
with different learning, thinking and
connecting patterns. Teachers would
tell us Kyle was a daydreamer or lacked
focus or motivation.
He would say he was having
adventures or solving problems he
considered important, in his mind. He
took the washing machine apart to see
how it worked and put it back together
properly at age eight. He constantly
invented solutions to complex problems.
And while his parents could get lost in
their own neighbourhood, we learned to
depend on our son, who carried maps in
But if a subject was of no interest or
use to him, Kyle didn’t bother with it.
As he explains:
“Most homework assignments were a boring waste of time that didn’t actually provide any new knowledge,
so I simply didn’t do them. I’d be
getting the highest test grades in class,
and the lowest homework marks. This
contributed greatly to my stress and
depression.” One extraordinary elementary teacher
more or less declared Kyle her project,
keeping him on track and encouraging
him. This set the tone for the rest of
his schooling. When teachers took the
time to understand him—he never had
behavioural problems—he met school
standards, if reluctantly.
But teachers who didn’t understand
him added to his despair.
“If you’re depressed and your teacher keeps sending notes your parents have to sign saying what
a bad person you are for not doing
yesterday’s pointless busy work, you
get the impression she doesn’t actually
care about your well-being.” Junior high school brought new
challenges. Kyle was good at math, but
tests (and teachers) required he show his
work. He always had the right answer,
but his route was often different from
the “correct” one. He lost marks but
refused to conform. He once challenged
an answer in a provincial math textbook.
The teacher checked. He was right; the
textbook was wrong.
Bullying and social isolation plagued
him—although this eased somewhat
when he did well at competition
wrestling—as did anxiety and depression.
The worst part was he did not understand
why people teased and avoided him.
Autism affects how the brain works and
can cause problems in thinking, feeling,
language and relating to others