TH knows that he has Asperger's. We talk about it openly, he was privy to the whole Circle of Friends process, including what I showed in the slides and talked about in class, and he himself often brings up Asperger's. He knows I write this blog, and I don't write about things here that we're not comfortable talking about. His observations lately have been sometimes a little poignant but often just downright funny. They're even funnier if you know TH and can imagine the loud, always-shocked voice, the crinkly faces, the sunny smiles that go with them.
A few weeks ago, he informed me that his life was a misery because he has Asperger's. I tried to get him to articulate more, but what it really came down to was his favorite pet peeve about Asperger's: he hears the word "ass" in it, and that disturbs him deeply.
His brother, Dubya, will sometimes point out to TH that TH's annoying behavior of the moment is because of "the way his brain is made." Even as he makes this point and recognizes it, Dubya still requires that TH cease and desist from the behavior. Sometimes, the behavior is just simple vocalizing, loudly, while, as Dubya says, "not making any sense, General Nonsense!" Other times, it's physical, and if we don't intervene soon enough, Dubya will be the one off in a tailspin.
In public, TH really lets it all hang out sometimes, vocalizing, making this incredible series of distorted faces, flapping. Some people may disagree with this approach, but we are really trying to get TH to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate situations for these behaviors, especially the loud vocalizing. To wit: sitting in a fairly quiet restaurant? Not the best time to make loud, startling "Wheeeeeeeeeee! Eeeeeeeee! Bawwwwk!" noises. We wouldn't address this with him if we didn't know that he really can shut those off, at least for a short time, and "save" them for later.
So, we've talked to him about those behaviors. We've asked him why he does them. He thinks it's his Asperger's, and we've told him that we think that's right. And we've talked to him about autistic behaviors as a shorthand way of letting him know that a specific behavior might be one he wants to try to save for a more private time. He's curious to identify these because he's more interested than we are in not sticking out as "weird." (Honestly, I don't care if he's weird for the sake of himself, but we have the rest of the world to contend with, too, not just for what they think, but to respect their right to a comfortable space, as well).
And we were driving in the car the other day when he cut loose with a long string of VERY loud vocalizations. As long as the decibel level stays where I can stand it, he has free rein to do this. But he'd also asked us to help him ID these behaviors, so I said, "TH, I think that's one of your autistic or Asperger's behaviors."
Lately, TH has had some difficulties with words--especially hearing and saying them right. A recent example was when he and Dubya were discussing a newly arrived Victoria's Secret catalogue, and TH informed Dubya that the woman in the bikini on the cover was "saxy." I just let that one go. I don't feel that the time is exactly right to correct that to sexy, much less try to explain what exactly "sexy" means. My definition likely differs from theirs anyway. Dubya, much taken with the idea, however, asked TH, "What does 'saxy' mean." And TH replied succinctly, "Hot." Starts early, doesn't it?
When I pointed out in the car that day that his vocalizing was likely one of his autistic manifestations, TH paused in mid-bawk and said, "I thought it was good to be artistic! Dubya is artistic! We're both artistic!"
After a brief clarification, I started thinking about it to myself. TH is artistic, in a unique, inimitable way. That's a manifestation of who he is, of something that is integral to himself, and we never discuss whether or not he can express that in certain situations. Of course, he has yet to try to express it with a can of spray paint on someone's office building, so perhaps that day awaits.
And he is also autistic, something that is integral to himself. Is it right or is it wrong to make him aware of appropriate places and times for expression of this part of himself--assuming that he CAN manage that expression? As with art and spray paint tagging, when the expression infringes on others, is it right to work on modulating it, saving it for a more "appropriate" setting? Even "saxy" people presumably must occasionally seek to modulate their inherent (or surgical) saxiness for specific occasions.
What say ye, all? Let's talk about it.