David’s Gift originally began as a book about Asperger’s Syndrome and the strategies we developed over the years which could help other families who are dealing with this diagnosis.
However, during the process of writing, I came to realise how Asperger’s Syndrome actually challenged and inspired us to understand who we really were and what it was we truly wanted out of life
Asperger’s taught us the lessons we most needed to learn; the power of unconditional love, the value of patience and understanding and the true meaning of the words compassion, forgiveness, honesty and authenticity.
Those diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome are often intelligent, intense and self-focused individuals, who usually find success in a career requiring enormous amounts of attention to detail. But they view the world differently and because of this ‘difference’ they are often judged harshly as odd, over reactive, difficult or non-compliant. For many, their brains and bodies are often overstimulated by things such as noise, light, heat or cold. They can be oversensitive to certain fabrics, smells or odours, causing them to react in ways that are deemed unacceptable.
This ‘difference’ also brings with it a lack of understanding of the social skills most people take for granted.
Those with Asperger’s find relationships difficult to understand and miss the ‘unspoken’ cues that help people develop the depth of emotions and strong interpersonal relationships. Through social interaction we learn to experience love, patience, compassion and understanding as well as all the emotions that make up the fabric of who we are. For those with Asperger’s, these often don’t come naturally and have to be learned, usually only through modelling other’s behaviours. How to act in certain situations or how to self monitor stress or confusion can be challenging because in their world they do not need social acceptance, and so do not understand others reactions. Hence they don’t naturally understand what acceptable behaviour is and what it is not. If it doesn’t feel OK, then they will react in what ever way they feel the need to in order to cope with the stress of the situation at hand.
Being able to deal effectively with the many challenging and confusing aspects of David’s diagnosis meant we, as his parents, had to be in tune with what his needs were. We needed to be constantly aware of how we interacted, not only with David but also with each other, our daughters and people we associated with on a daily basis.
It was our role to become the people we wanted David to be.
We needed to ensure our emotions were clear and real so David could learn to understand his own emotions. To exhibit unconditional love, understanding, patience and compassion, so he could ‘feel’ what they were and understand them in his life.
We had to be clear in our communication, use language that was positive and succinct and be very, very sure what we said was exactly what we both wanted and intended.
It has been an amazing journey.
The story you are about to read is the story of our family. There are many moments of joy and any moments of love and laughter. However, there are also many sad moments and many dark moments, some of which were very difficult to write; but I felt it was important to share the darkest times because it was through those times the greatest lessons were learned.
When Asperger’s Syndrome first came into our lives it presented to us a challenge which, at the time, seemed sad, unfair and overwhelming. It is only now I can see it was in fact an incredible gift. Because, you see, the things we most needed to teach David were the things we most needed to learn ourselves.
It was the gift David gave to us. A gift for which we will forever be grateful.