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SAHM of 3 wonderful kids, one brilliant one Asperger Syndrome. This is not a living shrine to his disorder, but rather a place to share & discuss the different challenges that came with it and other things about parenting & life in general.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What are you thankful for? My aspie & his silent Thanksgiving meltdown

Salvation Army Thanksgiving Meal Setting up
How many times did you hear, “List the things we are thankful for.” I know I found myself repeating it to the kids. This year was no different. And thanks to W, I added to my list.

W was set to volunteer at Salvation Army Thanksgiving meal with the community. It was open to the public, but it was mostly for low-income families and the homeless. As I dropped him off to the area, I had to remind him to mind his facial expressions and gestures because there were going to be a lot of people. I concealed my nerves and dropped him off. I only asked him to reply to my text to keep in touch with me. He did just that by texting me until the ceremonies began.

Lack of empathy is something that is described as one of the characteristics of Aspergers. But I see him being too sensitive to others’ feelings, he just expresses it differently than you and I. W looked forward to volunteering with a friend that has been going through a very rough patch. He convinced his depressed friend to join him instead of sulking  at home.

When I picked him up after lunch, he was in high spirits. It was written all over his face. He said there were close to three thousand (I don’t have numbers, but over 2500) were there and served. He saw the major and the television crew.  He served 422 people. He said there were many elderly and children there. They ran out of food, but luckily, they were able to serve all the people that came. There weren't any left for the volunteers.

I could see the excitement in his eyes as he went through the last detail of what happened. He said he never heard people say "Thank You" so many times  and mean it. He said their words felt genuine and real. W had finally felt high you get when you help others. Until now, he has been volunteering because that is what you are suppose to to. But he didn’t realize the kind of high you can get out of doing something for someone else. As an added bonus, his friend was happier for volunteering with him.

But the good feeling didn’t last as the day went on. I didn’t realize that participating in something with so many people and interacting with them would take its toll.

Nothing special was planned. A simple dinner with family was that was left for the day. My parents and my sister along with her sons were coming over for dinner. The little drama began when his aunt asked him to do something, and instead of his usual cooperation, he outright refused and disrespected her. He went to his room and stayed there. The incident isn't as trivial as I describe, but I will leave the details out.

My parents were arriving. We were going to set up the table for early dinner. The simple way to end this was for him to apologize to his aunt. I went upstairs to talk with him and tried to convince him that was the way, and he just clamped down and wouldn’t speak. I was going to give him his space, but wrong is wrong, he would have to apologize eventually.  I hoped we could resolve the situation without my parents finding out, but that didn’t happen. My parents arrived.

I told my mom, who went upstairs to speak to him. He clamped down even more. After 30 minutes, he came down for dinner. His grandpa took him out for a walk around the block and I could hear my Dad trying to convince him to make amends.

We had dinner. But it was the most awkward dinner I had ever had in my life. I could sense the tension. Good thing is that the little ones didn’t notice as we had to put on a gigantic act. When dinner was done, he went outside.

After a talk with his grandpa, he finally apologized, without my knowledge to his aunt. He was nervous and afraid that it was too late and by the time he was ready to apologize, the thing had grown so much bigger, that it was scary for him to apologize. He didn’t think it would be accepted. So the incident was resolved and people went back home.

So what did I learn from today? I realized that W is an Aspie. He is so high functioning sometimes, he lets me forget it until it slaps me across the face. The other lesson is to let your child learn on their own. I learned that I needed to step away and let him learn on his own and fix his own mistakes. I could have forced him to apologize and fix the situation, but I let him get through it. It was painful and uncomfortable for me to watch, but it turned out well in the end. Lastly, W learned the true meaning of volunteering and I could see the joy in his face when he did. I am happy I was here to see him through the discovery.

So what am I thankful for?

I’m thankful for W.

  My aspie.

I told him I loved him, loved having him as my son and I wouldn’t want it any other way.


  1. You sound like a wonderful mom. I get that it's not always easy, but I think you're doing a great job.

  2. Your love for W shines through. :)

  3. This is a beautiful, heartful story! I love that you introduced him to the volunteer serving experience - what a great idea.

    We have an unusually high homeless population in my town. At my work each year, they round up volunteers to do something similar. This year one of the committee heads commented, "If you have any sulking teenagers at your house who think their life stinks, and a need a glimpse into a bigger picture than just their small world - bring them down to help." My kids are little, but I agree ... and what a valuable lesson to teach!

    It sounds like you are doing an amazing job with your son. I'm sure he will always be Thankful for his mom, too!!