It's paralyzing fear, you walk into a crowded room and feel your heart pound out of your chest, breathing becomes difficult and your eyes shift from one end of the room to the other looking for an escape....
What is Asperger's Syndrome? Taken from the Autism Society of Illinois website, read here.
I will call her Leah for the sake of anonymity. Leah has Asperger's Syndrome, a condition that is included in the definition of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Diagnosed as an adult, a forty something Mom of a child on the severe end of the autism spectrum. This is her story....
Leah's first recollection of social anxiety is while in kindergarten, it was 1975, she was not quite five years old yet, so younger than most of her peers. Sitting on the circle dressed in brown corduroy pants and a red Mickey Mouse t-shirt with a short mushroom haircut she knew she was different. A game of duck duck goose was in play, Leah felt paralyzed and couldn't move when her head was tapped. When prompted by the teacher to get up and run, she got up and fell flat on her face, the room was filled with laughter!
Leah cried and ran to the corner, not knowing what to think, but knowing she needed to escape. Similar situations occurred frequently over the next two years. Daily stomach problems plagued her along with a sense of isolation. Leah could not stand the feeling of her classmates sitting so close to her and would often squirm away being reprimanded by her teacher for disrupting the class and not paying attention.
The school Leah attended was located in a very poor and tumultuous neighborhood of Chicago, mostly populated by Hispanics, Leah being Caucasian didn't speak the language of most of her peers. The isolation was all consuming!
Eye contact was the first to go. Leah felt that if she didn't look a person in the eye she wouldn't see the disappointment, disgust and frustration in them in relation to her uniqueness that she felt was obvious by any passerby she came in contact with.
Leah's parents were blue collar working people, although both sides of her parent's family were high achieving professionals, it was always made clear that she and her immediate family were not of the same fabric, that they worked for a living and would always struggle holding their head up high. This was not exactly the thing a person with low self esteem needed to hear, Leah felt discouraged and kept down frequently.
It came to the point when entering the second grade that Leah's parents felt it would be best to place her in a private school. Looking back on it today she wonders if it is because they knew she couldn't survive in the public school jungle, that they also knew she was different.
Leah at the age of seven had no friends. In an all so common effort of the human mind to cope and overcome, she created her own world of imaginary friends. Days and nights were spent acting out through Barbi dolls and imagination, the perfect world of social acceptance she was aching to experience.
There was absolutely no anxiety or disappointment, everything was on her terms.
To be continued....
Peace, love and happiness always...
Lisa is the owner of Kaitlin's Hideout, a play center for children with autism and a social, support and resource place for parents. www.kaitlinshideout.com