“It’s probably one of the first things Jared puts out there. He says, ‘I have Asperger’s.’ But it’s a statement; it’s not that he’s ashamed of it. It is what it is.”
Deborah, the mother of 26-year-old Jared, shared her personal experience of raising a son on the autism spectrum.
“We found out Jared was on the spectrum when he was between 13 and 18 months old. So that was pretty early. With typical babies… you could rock them, and pat them, and do some type of comforting thing like that. But with Jared, he had to be in a certain position to be comfortable because there was so much stimulation. One time I just happened to tuck his head under my chin, and I rocked and bounced at the same time. And I think the pressure on his head, just the little tiny bit, actually helped comfort him.
We went down to the Seattle Children’s Hospital when Jared was about 18 months old. They took a look at him and they said, “He’s beautiful!” But that was the first time I had heard autism… specifically Asperger’s. When they told me, I had never really considered it before. My only experience with autism before was when I was 15, and worked as a camp counselor. There was a young woman there who had no language ability, and she couldn’t communicate verbally. But that was it.”
Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is now part of the broader category of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It’s a developmental disorder that impacts a person’s ability to communicate and socialize. Some common behaviors might include:
• Obsessive interests
• Sensitivity to loud noises, clothing and food textures, and odors
• Challenges with nonverbal communication
• Inappropriate responses socially and emotionally
• Difficulty with empathy
Jared described his biggest frustration, “The most challenging thing for me is communication. I have a sort of structure set on what certain things mean, and if things don’t align with what I think they mean… I get a very skewed view of what’s going on.”
Deborah continued, “I’m a drama queen, and one time I was so mad, I was just smacking my hand on the table to emphasize each word I said. Jared turned to my husband and said, ‘Is she mad?’ and Les replied, ‘Yes… yes, she’s mad.’
Another time he was asking me a question, and I was coughing and choking. And I couldn’t catch my breath! And Jared asked, ‘Why don’t you answer me?!’ Finally, when I caught my breath, I said, ‘Jared, I’m choking!’ And he replied, ‘Oh… I’m so sorry!’ So he had no idea!”
Jared’s younger brother, Tyler, chimed in, “It’s both rewarding and challenging to have an older brother with autism. Jared sees the world differently. That’s the thing with Asperger’s. And I have to admire him for that because he’s brilliant… it’s just that it’s hard for him to translate the world that’s around him or communicate back.
In class, it looks like Jared isn’t listening because he might be staring off in the distance. But, truth be told, he’s listening more intently than most people. Because when the teacher would ask a question, he would always go so in depth. It’s really amazing how his thought process works.”
Tyler continued, “The thing with Jared, is that when you physically look at him, you can’t tell that he is on the spectrum. I remember one time in church, someone had made a rude comment to both of us. I didn’t say anything about it, and me and my brother, we just kept to ourselves. It definitely hurt us, but the thing is, I feel like we’re just used to that kind of ridicule at this point because we’ve been through it throughout our lives.
There are plenty of people who don’t understand… but there are also many people who know, are informed, and who do understand. I’m very grateful for those people. My brother is my best friend. Hands down. And I love him to death. He’s always there for me. And I try to do my best to be there for him.”
Deborah concluded, “One of the most heartbreaking things he said to me recently was, ‘I know you’re trying to fix me.’ And I thought… oh my gosh. All this time he thought that I had considered him to be broken. And I do not want him to ever think that. These children come to us and they’re a gift. I know that he has a purpose, and he has a mission.
It’s so important to see him as he is.”
This is just one family’s story of their experience with ASD. Here at Skywalker Trampolines, we celebrate Autism Awareness Month by holding social media giveaways to give individuals with autism the chance to receive a free trampoline. You can nominate family members and friends for the giveaway here. You can also read more to learn why we care about making a difference in the lives of those with autism.