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Family: Articles on family dynamics, home life and parenting

My name is Rob Raede and I'm Danny's Dad. As parents of kids with Asperger's, I don't need to tell you that raising a child with AS can be incredibly challenging and frustrating.  My wife and I are thankful every day that somehow along the way we did enough things right to get Danny to a point where he could find a path to become a thriving adult.

Asperger's as a term and diagnosis was fairly new when Danny was diagnosed at age 12.  Not very many people knew about it, and no one had heard of Defense Mode or Sensory Funnels.  Resources were limited, and we had to make a lot of it up as we went along.  We wish we had Asperger Experts around when we were raising Danny.

I thought perhaps it might be helpful to other fathers of AS kids to recount some of the things I did wrong, and did right, raising Danny.

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You read a book. Or listen to a doctor or therapist and think "That's a great idea!"... but when it is time to finally IMPLEMENT that advice, you easily forget to actually use your new found wisdom.

Sound familiar? It's something I've done time and time again. So as a reminder, here are the top 9 things to remember when raising someone with Asperger's. You might want to print this one out and hang it somewhere to remind you. If you'd like more reminders, inspiration, and hope, you can join our email list here.

#9 - It's Not Personal

This is an essential mindset to always have. Kids WANT to do their best (adults do too). Nobody wakes up in the morning and goes "I'd sure like to have a horrible day! How can I make that happen?"

So when someone attacks you (verbally or physically), or does something that seems to be in spite, always remember. They are hurting inside. They aren't doing it because they want to be mean to you, they are doing it because they are suffering.

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The following post is by Danny's Mother:

Raising a son with Asperger's, we often had to celebrate in a different way. And, you know what?  It was really fun and very memorable for all of us.  Here are three examples:

When Danny turned 12, we were on vacation in Seattle.  To celebrate his actual birthday, Danny didn't want a party or special dinner, but instead requested a tour of Microsoft Headquarters.  Fortunately, we had a business acquaintance whose son coordinated a fabulous tour of the campus.  I really didn't understand all of the technical terms or descriptions of software – but Danny did!  He was focused, happy, thrilled, and social doing something that he wanted to do.

Danny was raised Jewish, and that meant we celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at age 13.  To prepare, he studied  for months to learn to read Hebrew, learned some prayers, and wrote a speech about the meaning of his Torah portion.  (A lot for any 13-year-old!) On his Bar Mitzvah day, he led services, and then we had a celebration. We had just had the diagnosis of Asperger's, so I had a little better idea of what we should NOT do to celebrate.  We shouldn't invite too many people.  We shouldn't make too much of a fuss of him.  We shouldn't celebrate with loud music. This was not the  normal celebration of our community, but it was perfect for Danny.  At the party celebrating him becoming part of the adult-community, instead of having lots of loud screaming teenagers dancing “YMCA,” we had a magician performing.  Instead of expecting Danny to participate in any games, he was the judge. And, instead of him arriving into the room with full fan-fare, he sat on his Dad's lap watching close-up magic.

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Note about the author: Ellen is the mom of two adult sons  (including Danny) who are two years apart. She was, and still is, the “mom on call” for  Danny, who was diagnosed with Asperger's at age 12, and his older brother, who was the one with the more “normal” culture. She is thankful that she has had a very patient, and much more playful husband, to share in her parenting responsibilities.

I really hated summertime! Unless I could get frequent breaks, I disliked being with my Asperger son, Danny, playing Pokemon with him all day, and listening to endless monologues about his obsessions.

While I did my best to pretend to enjoy every single moment of parenting, I can now admit that I did not enjoy summertime. Here are some things I would have done differently:

1)  Don't stress about the lack of peer-friends.  Up until about age eight, his peers didn't seem to mind Danny's quirks.  After that, the kids his age began to notice that Danny was different and didn't want to be with him. (I used to cry when he was excluded from birthday parties.) They didn't understand him when he spoke obsessively like a little engineer explaining in much too much detail about whatever topic interested him. They didn't like that Danny did not abide by the social norm of respecting their physical space, and they thought it was strange that he would freak-out when someone touched him playfully. So, instead of complaining about the lack of peer-friends, or forcing Danny to be in stressful situations trying to fit in, I would have removed that stress by finding people of different ages to be with him.

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