Tate, our amazing, wonderful, happy, and challenging kid, has Asperger’s disorder. But even getting to that diagnosis was a long and difficult journey.
I went to ECFE (early-childhood family education) with him starting at 6 weeks and I was able to see what other kids were doing. All along, Tate was different. He was interested in things that didn’t interest other children. He had a tremendous attention span and, by 7 months, seemed to be figuring out the way toys worked. At 9 months, he would sit crossed-legged paging through stacks of books. He started speaking by age 1. At 15 months, he knew his alphabet and numbers. He knew all of his shapes and colors, and his phone number, at 18 months. He was incredible and so different from every other kid.
I thought we had a genius, partly because that’s what everyone told us. But I had a bad gut feeling early on. Some things just didn’t add up. He didn’t seem to notice the other kids. By age 2, he could count to 1,000, but when he was hurt, he would cry but not be able to tell me where or why it hurt. Tate learned how to use the computer and could play games made for children twice his age, but he couldn’t "read" people’s expressions or emotions. He could tell us all that we wanted to know about a story—even who wrote and illustrated it—but he couldn’t tell us why a character felt the way he did.
So we put Tate in preschool to get him involved with other kids. He just did his own thing. He never talked about other kids, but he could tell me the number of stairs that he climbed to get to the gym, and the colors of each piece of a puzzle. He didn’t talk about his experiences because he didn’t know how. He started pushing kids and becoming very upset if his milk spilled. I started dreading preschool days. I called it "going to get the ‘pushing report." I felt like a bad mom. Teachers made me feel as if I had a bad kid with a behavior problem. But I knew that Tate was not mean; he just didn’t seem to know what to do with kids.
The disparities of Tate’s learning finally got out of hand when he turned 3. He taught himself how to read while we were trying to toilet-train him. I went online and looked up "autism." It didn’t seem to fit. I kept searching. I found a site about Asperger’s Disorder. As I read it, every hair on my body stood up, and I felt sick to my stomach. "Oh my God. He has Asperger’s," I thought to myself. It made so much sense. I called a family friend, who was one of the founders of Fraser’s autism program. She came over and confirmed my fears. Tate had Asperger’s. So now what? Our world was spinning again.
Lyle directed us to Fraser. I spent the next three weeks on the phone literally eight hours a day. I talked to Rachel, who was a godsend. Her manner was calm and compassionate. She knew what we were dealing with and had ways to help. Fraser had room in one of its day-treatment classes. We were in. I felt a huge relief.
I tell people all the time that Fraser has changed our lives for the better. The people have been amazing. The care and understanding is unbelievable. I finally felt as if people knew Tate and saw that he was a wonderful kid with many talents and a great personality, who happens to have Asperger’s. Also, I felt that I had people to talk to. They didn’t make me feel like a bad mom. They let me know that what was happening was normal with Asperger’s.
Tate is my hero. He is so resilient. He has worked so hard to get to where he is now. He has already faced adversity and has come out smiling. He wants to learn to be a better friend and to communicate more effectively. Already in his short life, he has had to work very hard at things that come so easily to most kids. He is a gift to us. Every day he teaches us things about seeing the world in a different way and appreciating unique points of view. And every day Fraser gives us the help that we need, so that we can focus more on just loving Tate.
- Wendy Lutter