During lunch this afternoon, Russell looked at me with sad eyes and asked, "Mom, do I have mental illness? Is there something wrong with me? Am I sick?"
Russell is a very loving boy, at 11 years old, he still hold my hand in public, even during our not so frequent walks to school. He still kiss me on my lips and say he loves me before walking into the school. He does things that show his love for the family. He loves to read, almost all genre, particularly humorous ones. He likes to tell jokes he read from books and some of them were made up. He is adventurous when it comes to food and is pretty good at describing how it tasted. He is a very fast learner and teaches me how to operate certain computer programs, the PS3, that he learned from just watching his dad. He could remember lots of details from information books that he read through just once. Oh, and somehow, he has mastered the art of speed reading. He could finish a whole Mr midnight or Enid Bryton book in an hour or less. He is very forgiving and mild mannered.
He has also acted eccentric many times in school since kindergarten, and finally, at the end of primary 1, his form teacher, Mrs Ibrahim, was very concerned about him and suggested he see a psychiatrist. At first, I was very worried and my husband was very angry. We were afraid that he will be labelled and frown upon. I am thankful that Mrs Ibrahim was very gentle in her approach and assured me that getting help early is the best thing to do.
The hardest year was when he was in Primary 3. I was actually having a hard time coping with his eccentricity especially when it came to school work and it was wearing my patience down. Finally, on the 3rd term of school that year, the doctor arranged to meet up with me and my husband to discuss his diagnosis. Russell has Asperger Syndrome. A very mild form of autism. Someone with high IQ but low EQ. He needs a teacher that understands how he thinks and a weekly behaviour therapy with the school counsellor. The doctor also taught me a few tips on how to help him in the areas that I had a hard time with. He also recommended taking him off Chinese class as it contributed to the stress he was having.
Thankfully, the teacher that was having power struggle with him all the time, resigned and Mrs Tang replaced her. He stopped taking Chinese exams. I started understanding how he thinks and followed the doctor's advice. Things were looking brighter... and after 6 months of behavior therapy, he didn't have to see the school's counsellor, Ms Claire Yeoh, anymore. She told me he was coping well in school and I was happy for him.
But today, he told me no one likes to talk to him in school because he is different, his science and health education teachers shouted at him because he was slow at finishing his work but he couldn't help it. It was painful for me to hear those words and so I explained to him for the first time, that he has Asperger Sydrome. It is not an illness or disease. It is a developmental disorder that affects his social skills. Hyperverbal most times that affects communication skills. Preoccupied in his own thoughts most times so doesn't seem to listen when we talk.
I worry sometimes about how he will cope in the future but I have faith in myself that I can help him improve. As it is now, he has mature so much from those days when he was a little trouble maker in class. Will talk about those little troubles he created next time. It's fustrating and funny at the same time :)
If you want to learn more about AS, go to this link, http://www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger/