Nov 04, 2009
Hi, I am Mariann's mother and Bryan's grandmother. I was living in Germany when Bryan was born so I didn't meet Bryan until he was over a year old. Right away I noticed that things just were a little "off" but couldn't put my finger on anything in particular. He made strange choking noises in the back seat when I took him anywhere. Mariann took him to the doctor and found out that he had a respiratory problem that an he would outgrow. She discussed with the doctor at that time that his grandmother felt like there was something else wrong with him but he assured her that Bryan was fine.
His grandfather and I took him to Lake of the Ozarks where he got to ride on a boat and play in a big indoor play area when he was two. He was not yet potty trained so it was a bit of stretch for us as we had not had to do the diaper thing in 19 years! He did not interact with the other kids at the playground or with us to any real degree. He did not laugh, run around, or talk much and again I was concerned that something was not right.
I remember when he was about 3, I took him to the Missouri Botanical gardens thinking he would like the fountains, lagoon, and playground. Bryan still did not interact with the other kids and when they came to play with him, he ignored them until they left. He enjoyed watching the water fountains and got excited which was evidenced by his arm flapping. I had never seen a kid do that and it seemed odd to me. Up to this point I was still believing Mariann's story that he was just shy but the evidence was mounting that Bryan was different than other kids in more ways than being shy could explain. I nagged her all the time about talking to her doctor.
He was having trouble in day care and preschool but Mariann thought it was the facility or the teacher. My husband and I often discussed what Bryan was doing or NOT doing as he still was not having much to do with us and the arm flapping was becoming the norm for him. Bryan started kindergarten and things got really bad. Once again I heard from Mariann that it was the teacher or the school but then the teacher asked her to slip in sometime during the day and observe Bryan's behavior. Mariann told me in tears that she did not recognize the child in the classroom as her son because his behavior was so violent. Bryan had never exhibited violence at home but he was used to the sights and sounds of home.
We lived in Germany for much of Bryan's early years so I only heard 2nd hand what was going on. When he was finally tested, it came as a surprise to me that he was autistic because I had a different idea of autism than the way Bryan behaved. When I heard "aspergers syndrome", I hurried to the computer and started my research to learn everything I could about it. NOW I saw Bryan in everything I read and I understood the arm flapping, the outrageous behavior in loud environments, the lack of interaction with others, and the delayed speech and potty training. My heart went out to Mariann when she told me how the rest of the family reacted to her news that Bryan had Aspergers Syndrome which was a form of autism. Bryan had not changed but suddenly the family viewed him differently AND they accused Mariann of making it up or some how being responsible for him being autistic. I don't know how she dealt with it but she focused on doing what needed to be done to help Bryan.
I kept Bryan along with his brother the first summer we were back in the States and that was an eye opener. He totally lacked empathy with anyone and he didn't seem to understand that his behavior was unacceptable with others when he was verbally or physically abusive. Seeing him side-by-side with his brother made his autism even more apparent to me. He didn't respond when I called him or asked him something like he was in his own little world. I would have to go over to touch him before he would even acknowledge that I had spoken to him. It was a long summer but we made it through with my learning a lot about daily life with Bryan.
The next summer I kept him as well as his brother and sister. It was a nightmare. One year made such a difference. Bryan was constantly needing to be taken out of situations with the neighborhood kids. They didn't take well to being called stupid or threatened with words like "I'm going to kill you". Bryan was hitting his brother so hard that he left marks and I kept seeing the day coming when he would do real physical harm to someone. I didn't know how to discipline him because he didn't mind time out since he enjoyed being alone and talking to him about how the other person felt did nothing as he couldn't relate to that. Things came to head that summer when the new toy I had bought for his brother was thrown down into the woods by Bryan because Jack didn't want to do something Bryan wanted to do. I made Bryan give Jack the toy I had bought for Bryan and then scavenge the woods for Jack's toy. He didn't. He sat down and looked from a stationary position which angered me so much that I had to leave. Later I took him for a drive and we talked but it was really me talking. That is when I realized that I probably could not control the situation as he got older without learning more about alternative ways of disciplining. He was not responding to any of the tried and true methods I had used as a parent.
This last summer his behavior was improved or I had done my homework and learned a little more. He now speaks to me when he sees me after constant reminders that manners dictate that you speak a greeting when seeing someone for the first time that day. He still does not have conversations but instead we have monologues with him describing in detail the last movie he saw or gory details about dinosaur fights. Bryan fixates on a subject and learns everything about it to the point that all else is ignored. He is so smart that he can retain all that information and understand it. Unfortunately, he just doesn't understand that not everyone is interested in the same thing. His social skills have improved as he gets older but it is a constant effort on the part of Mariann to force him to speak to people and interact at a level he is not comfortable. This year he is doing great in school and I can see him trying things he never did before. It is like watching a flower ever so slowly bloom.
I know that Bryan will be okay but that he will struggle all his life to fit in. I am constantly sending Mariann success stories of others who have Aspergers and are now journalists, doctors, musicians, etc. She doesn't need the reassurance but I do and I hope it shows her that I am still trying to understand Aspergers and how I can help Bryan.
May the Lord bless and keep you!