About the time Harrison turned 7 I realized he was different. He was very challenging and in fact, some days he made me cry. His brother Ethan, who is four years older, was so easy-going. Harrison appeared to be challenging just because. We would try on clothes in the store and he would say he liked them, yet after purchasing them and removing the tags they were scratchy or uncomfortable and he refused to wear them. We always knew he was smart but his shyness prevented him from shining in school.
Not long ago, in high school, he was failing 9th grade. In spite of getting 100% on all of his tests, he didn’t turn in his homework. Many times we’d discover that he had in fact completed the homework and just failed to turn it in. Why would he do the work and not want to get the credit? How could someone so smart be so defiant and noncompliant? These are some examples of the frustrations that I faced on a daily basis with my son. It felt hopeless at times.
I’ve lost count of all the therapists we’ve gone to see. They would meet with him once or twice and inform us that he was a completely normal boy and they found nothing irregular. It left me exhausted and deflated. These were experts basically telling me there was nothing they could do to help us. I began to feel inferior as a mother. If this is normal behavior maybe there is something wrong with me. Am I a terrible mother?
There is nothing “wrong” with Harrison but I also know that life with and for Harrison had its challenges. I knew there must be something we could do to make him more comfortable in this world and increase all of our happiness. I also needed to prepare him for living alone in the world, without me there to protect him.
Recently, right before he turned 15, I met a woman who shared with me some stories about her daughter and their struggles. She is currently in college and doing well but she is on the autistic spectrum and some of her experiences were similar to mine. She told me about a book called “Look Me in the Eye.” I immediately started listening to it on Audible and I knew immediately that my son had Asperger’s. Asperger’s is on the autism spectrum. I found a therapist that specialized in this and he confirmed the diagnosis.
I remember on the way home from the therapist feeling relieved. As Harrison sat quietly for a moment I asked him if he felt better. He sternly said, “No, I don’t want to have autism.” I acknowledged how he felt and also shared that I felt relieved sharing, “We finally have an answer and something to work with. We know your brain works differently and now we can make adjustments on making you feel better.”
We found a company called Brain Balance that helps to retrain Harrison’s brain and strengthen his right brain to activate his executive skills utilizing primitive reflex exercises. We are also modifying our diet and eliminating dairy, gluten, and sugar. This is a lifestyle change for our family. Now that we know more about why Harrison behaves the way he does, we can work on improving his life.
This will take some time and a lot of effort for all of us. Luckily, Harrison is old enough to realize the importance of changing his diet and doing special exercises to improve his life and how he feels. He is committed and so are we as a family. I’ve seen a huge difference in him even with just having the awareness of Asperger’s. He no longer expresses that he doesn’t want to be on this planet and he seems happier. So as a parent, I recommend that you always listen to your gut and realize experts are human and can make mistakes. Never give up on your kids to have the best life possible.