Fight Asperger’s with laughter

Published 9:09 am Friday, April 28, 2017

My son Colton has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism.

The area of greatest impairment for Aspies, as they are sometimes called, is in the social arena. They have virtually no social skills and sarcasm is lost on them. I, being the self-proclaimed queen of sarcasm however, worked hard to make sure my son had a healthy dose of it. Which as a child often led him to ask, “Are you using sarcasm on me?”

Aspies always have one thing they focus all of their energy on and generally become extremely successful at it. Many doctors, computer gurus, scientists and artists have Asperger’s. As much as I wish he fell into the doctor category, Colton is of the starving artist variety. He can’t go anywhere without his art supplies.

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Several years ago, we had a membership to the YMCA. When we had family visiting from out of state we spontaneously decided to go to swimming.

Aspies don’t enjoy spontaneity. They plan their day and may have adverse responses to the plan not going well.

Colton gave me his “deer in the headlights” look as soon as I announced what most kids would find fun — a day at the pool.

Colt, however, was planning to draw not swim. To his benefit, he was doing his best to roll with it.

Everyone launched into preparations. Aspies are known for being slow and having no sense of time. So, it was no surprise to have everyone waiting on Colton. When he finally made his appearance, he was carrying all of his drawing paraphernalia. I looked at him and said, “You’re not planning on taking that are you?”

He looked at me like I was insane. “Yes.”

I said, “Colton, you can’t take all of that with you.”

He looked horrified. “But today is my drawing day!”

Seeing how distressed he was getting, I spoke as gently as I could.

“I know. But honey, you can’t take all that to the pool.”

“Why?” Asperger kids must always have the reason behind everything.

“Your papers will get wet,” I sai thinking that would be the most obvious way to end the conversation.

I was wrong.

“I will protect them and keep them away from the water,” he replied.

I knew Colton would protect those papers like our military defends our country. I scrambled for a response. Knowing how selfless and considerate of others he is, I said, “Well, there will be girls in bikinis and they may think you’re drawing them or doing something you shouldn’t be.”

He thought for a moment then said, “I can hang a sign around my neck that says ‘I’m not drawing you.’”

It took less than a second for us all to crack up laughing. I then explained why that wouldn’t work. But that is just the mind of an Aspie; sharp, decisive and never meaning harm.

If you are blessed to be a parent to one of these special kids my greatest advice is learn to laugh and do it often.

Joan Graves is a mother to five boys and an advocate and activist for children with special needs and their families. For more, go to