You wake on a typical weekend morning. Your children are sleeping as you prepare breakfast. At 8:30am you head upstairs to check in on your 14 year old son. A child with a huge heart and beautiful smile, your heart breaks for him often. He has Asperger Syndrome and struggles with the feelings that come from not being accepted by your peers. He is very intelligent, which only seems to fuel the problem. Even adults look at him, and due to his intelligence, expect more from him then he is capable of. How do you explain to a child that only things logically, that the reason people shun him, or get frustrated with him, is simply because he is different? There is no logic in that, yet it is the simple truth, unfair that it may be.
These thoughts bombard you as you slowly walk up the stairs, wondering what today might be and how you will be able to help your son. You open the door as you call softly to him to wake up. With a start you realize that he isn't in bed. You step back into the hallway, figuring he was in the bathroom, or maybe downstairs somewhere. You call for him several times, with no answer.
You aren't really worried. It's not uncommon for your son to get up and go walking. It helps to soothe him, comfort him. You hope he grabbed something for breakfast before he left. He's struggled so much lately, he doesn't understand why people treat him the way they do. He doesn't understand why the world is so different then what he can understand or relate to. As you head back into the kitchen, you pray again the prayer you've said so many times, “Please God, help me find a way to help my son”.
Your laptop is sitting on the table. You slide it over to you and post a quick comment on Facebook, asking anyone that may know where your son is to get in touch with you as soon as possible.
The hours tick away and you still haven't heard anything. Your son doesn't typically stay gone for this long, and you are starting to worry. You've had this nagging feeling that something isn't quite right ever since you discovered that he wasn't in bed this morning. You've been shoving it aside, but now your starting to wonder if you should pay more attention to it.
An associate from work calls you. It's doubtful she's heard that you posted on Facebook asking for info on your son's whereabouts, and you don't really want to get into it on the phone with her. You answer the phone, and in a style true to her, she starts babbling about traffic being backed up on the interstate. She is talking over excitedly and very fast. To fast for your ever growing stressed emotions to keep up with. You vaguely hear her tell you how traffic was stopped because of a body found on the side of the road, and how it'd been there for hours before anyone bothered to call 911. You finally tell her that it's been a very bad morning for you, and that you have to get off the phone.
No sooner have you hung up your phone then panic seizes you. Didn't your friend from work just say that the body found had red hair? Surely she'd have said it was a teenager or a child if it was your son. But, she said it had been there for hours....hours! Oh no, she also said it was near where you live! That can't be your son. Oh please Dear God, don't let that be your son.
You quickly snatch the phone back up and call the local police department. You explain that your son, your son that has red hair, is missing. Your transferred to an officer, who asks you a ton of questions and then quietly tells you that two officers are already in route to your home to get a statement.
There is a knock at the door. You didn't hear the car pull up over the phone conversation. You quickly run to the door and yank it open. As your mind registers that it is two police officers, you stand on your tip toes to look over their shoulder, praying that your son is standing behind them.
The tallest of the two officers look at you with pity and an emotion that can only be sadness as he asks you to step inside and find a seat. This can't be happening! Something is wrong! Where is your son? That body on the side of the interstate can not be your son!
You listen to the officers' words, as if you are detached and standing a few feet away from yourself. It seems that your son is the “body” that your friend told you about. The police haven't pieced it all together yet, but it appears that your son jumped from the bridge that goes across the interstate at around 3:30am. He was hit by a tractor trailer. Through the next several hours, until sometime in the afternoon, traffic went on as usual. People noticed what appeared to be a “large animal in a pile of clothes” but didn't have time to report it. Others thought it was a body, but again were to busy to pick up their cell phones and call 911, much less turn around to check. It wasn't until afternoon that someone stopped and called 911 to let them know that a body was on the side of the interstate, where it had lain since 3:30am.....alone and hit by several vehicles. The clothing matches up to your son's clothing. There isn't any reason to do an identification, the police will use medical means to finalize that it really is your son. The police are certain it is suicide.
The next day, our best friend stops by to let you know that the story was in the newspaper again. This time the article states that the body that held up traffic for hours was a 14 year old that committed suicide. At the very bottom of the article, almost as an afterthought, it reads, “the teen was taking regular medication for Asperger's Syndrome and autism”. You look at her incredulously. Your son committed suicide due to the challenges, and lack of treatment, he faced having Asperger Syndrome, and it was only mentioned at the very bottom of the article as an afterthought? A Sargent said that your son was taking medication for Asperger Syndrome when there are no medications available to treat it, as if it's something that requires a magic cure? Why wasn't it mentioned that your son being treated like an outcast and different, not just from his peers but from adults, impacted him daily? Why didn't the article talk about how tons of parents around the country are finding themselves without the resources or tools necessary to help their children? Why didn't the article list the few available resources for this area? Why didn't it reach out to other families going through something similar, other families that every day fear their teen with Asperger Syndrome might also commit suicide?
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I wish I could say that I just made up this story. However, I am saddened beyond words to say that I didn't. This happened here over the last few days. As a mother frantically searched for her beloved 14 year old son, motorist to busy to call 911 were driving by his battered and tattered body.
A newspaper quoted Sgt. G.A. Barger of the North Carolina State Patrol as stating that the child was taking medication for his “Asperger Syndrome and Autism”. To date, there are no medications available to treat Asperger Syndrome. There is no cure for Autism, and many parents advocate that a cure isn't needed, merely the perception of “typical” people to change.
People have already started to judge. A mother states that she has a child with Asperger's and she doesn't understand why the article mentions it at all as her son is “bright and a joy to be around”. She wonders what Asperger Syndrome has to do with his suicide, or any other news article that has mentioned it recently. Another mentions medications and how they only “make things worse”. Another poster states that anyone with Asperger Syndrome wouldn't want that for the rest of their lives. Yet another newspaper article states that the child “suffered with Asperger Syndrome”.
There are so many things I want to say. I want to scream that children with Asperger Syndrome wouldn't suffer if it weren't for the judgements, criticizing, and mistreatment from “typical” people. I want to scream that there is not a medication for Asperger Syndrome. I want to scream that Dan Akroyd, Bill Gates, Daryl Hannah, Satoshi Tajiri, James Durbin, Paula Hamilton, Peter Howson, Clay Marzo, Les Murray and others all have Asperger Syndrome. There are so many more, Al Gore, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Robin Williams, Andy Kaufman, Hans Asperger, isaac Asimove and more. Do they seem to “suffer”, need “medication”, or need a cure? I want to scream that popular belief feel that Abraham Lincoln, Bobby Fischer, Benjamin Franklin, Marilyn Monroe, Henry Ford, Isaac Newton, Jane Austen, Vincent Van Gogh, and Virginia Woolf all had Asperger Syndrome. How can all these people be broken and need a “cure”? How can all these people not want to live simply because of their diagnosis?
I want to scream at the world that I am the mother of the sweetest, kindest, most caring teenage son. I want to scream how his intelligence level is through the roof, but how he lacks an understanding of social concepts. I want to scream out how he tries to engage his peers in conversation, but the “typical” teens shun him simply because he is different and different isn't “cool”. I want to scream at the world that different is not bad or wrong.
Yet, instead I will stand here and speak for the family that is to grief stricken to speak for themselves. I will stand and say that my son has Asperger Syndrome and that his life has been difficult. I will stand and speak out and let others know that my son's life, and the life of other teens with Asperger Syndrome, is difficult because others refuse to accept different as being acceptable. I will stand and tell others that you can not say you are scared of someone with Asperger Syndrome because of what one child with Asperger Syndrome did months ago, but instead you should stand up and help find a way for these children to have available the resources they need to help them succeed.
I am the mother of a child with Asperger Syndrome.
I am proud to be the mother of a child with Asperger Syndrome.
I support ALL parents of children with special needs.
I won't ever quit speaking up for my children's needs.
Always remember, if you've met one child with Autism, then you've met ONE child with Autism. No two children on the Autistic spectrum are alike, no two children with Asperger Syndrome are alike. One thing they all share though, resources are not available to help them reach their full potential. Nor do they experience the acceptance in society that they should.
Please, don't be one of the passive people that sit by and judge and criticize. Stand up today and speak out.
For resources regarding Autism Spectrum Disorder, you can follow the links below:
Autism Speaks Social Network for on-line chats with other parents in similar situations. Some use it to pose a specific question and get feedback, while others utilize it as a support group.
Autism Speaks Tool Kits http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/tool-kits
Autism Speaks Family Services web link - http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services
http://www.aspires-relationships.com/. It seems to have a wide variety of resources that may be helpful.
There is an excellent online support group called GRASP – The Global & Regional Asperger’s Syndrome Partnership. http://grasp.org/page/grasp-support-groups.
You can contact me at any time for questions, support, or information at firstname.lastname@example.org