I sometimes babysit for other families, during evenings and weekends, to make extra money. That extra money is my saving grace most of the time! Lately I've been babysitting for an awesome family with two little girls who are 5 and 2. I'll call them Miranda and Eloise Jones. The 5-year-old, Miranda, has Aspergers and ADHD. (Does that sound familiar?)
Mr. and Mrs. Jones know that I have ADHD and Aspergers Syndrome. I told them when I first met Mrs. Jones, when I was "interviewing" to babysit for them. I get along very well with the Jones's. When I get there, and before I go home at the end, we spend literally hours just sitting and talking, about their kids and about life in general.
The last time I babysat for them, Mr. Jones was asking me a lot of questions about my personal experiences with Aspergers Syndrome. He wanted to know if I felt like things were harder for me than for other people. I told him that I have a hard time in social situations, and that I have a lot of anxiety. I told him about my sensory issues, like how loud noises hurt my ears, and how when I was a kid I used to love to walk in the stones along the side of the road because I loved the sound of the crunching, and how I used to spread glue on my desk at school because I craved the feeling of scraping it off with my scissors, and stuff like that. Mr. Jones said he was relieved. I think he was seeing me as a functioning adult and hoping that Miranda will also become a functioning adult.
Looking back on it, I wish I had thought to tell them that, if Miranda is anything like me, she will be able to do anything at all, but at her own pace and in her own way. I didn't learn to drive until I was 21, for instance. Even now, driving is hard for me sometimes. But I do it! I have to come up with survival skills to get through ordinary situations in life. with things like work, I have learned to compensate for my shortcomings by just trying to do the best I can at what I can do. For instance, when I had my first job at age 15 in a fast food restaurant, the experience was a total failure. But my second job was at a K-Mart, when I was 17. I learned to work the cash register very well, by rote. I had trouble whenever new problems came up, like an item without a price or a person's credit card that wouldn't go through, and I was also certain that I didn't want to be promoted any higher than cashier. But my strengths were that I was a fairly quick cashier, and I was extremely friendly and polite. I made sure to give each customer a big smile and a greeting. I was always smiling at that job. Customers could be as rude as they wanted, and I would just smile and be polite and friendly. I actually got lots of compliments on this, and people even told my supervisor how sweet and friendly I was. So when I was slow to learn new things or panicked when small problems occurred, people forgave me for that.
I still have problems with certain things. I have trouble organizing my life. I cannot, for the life of me, keep my bank account from overdrafting. When something happens, like I get into a car accident, I need a lot of help to know how to handle it. But one thing that bothers me is that people in my life, like my parents and Diana, feel it is an all-or-nothing situation. They feel like I should either be completely competent and independent, or I need to have someone to supervise me in every situation. My parents get mad at me because they say I resist their help half the time, and the other half of the the time I am upset if they won't help me. What I wish I could say to family members of people with Aspergers... or any people with special needs, for that matter... is that sometimes I need help and sometimes I don't. Sometimes you may think I can't handle something, when I am certain I can... and if I feel like I can do it, please give me a chance! Sometimes I will be paralyzed by a situation and I will need your help. Please don't do it for me, but guide me through it so that next time I might be able to try it alone. And sometimes there may be things that you are sure I can do, but that I feel like I can't... so give me a gentle push! Let me be as independent as I can be, and let me find my own ways of doing things... but please know that I still might need help some of the time. And if I do need help with something, please let me keep my dignity as an adult, and let me keep my independence in the areas that I'm doing well in.
Maybe next time I see the Jones's, I'll remember to tell them all of that!