The Monkey Daddy sent me a message to call him. Monkey #1 needed to talk to me. Ok. He probably left something at my house that he needs for school tomorrow. So I call. Monkey #1 answers the phone.
“He had Asperger’s!” he sobbed into the phone.
“Baby, who did?”
“The shooter! He had Asperger’s!”
Ah. He is talking about the horrific shooting at the Connecticut elementary school.
“Sweetie, where did you hear about this? I’ve heard rumors, but nothing definite.” I am trying to placate him, miles away from him. Knowing what he really needs is a therapeutic hug.
“It was on 60 Minutes! A friend of his mother kept saying he had Asperger’s!” he wailed.
“Oh, honey, even if it is true, there is no way you could do something like that.”
“But, I hit (Monkey #2) when I am mad!…
I am turning into a monster!”
It was then that my heart shattered into a million pieces.
It was then that I wished that I could hold him in that way that only I can and smooth his hair and gently squeeze him to prompt him to breathe and sing “BINGO” to him and whisper that he could never ever ever be a monster.
My sweet son, who just so happens to have Asperger’s, is now terrified that he too has the capability to walk into a school and kill 20 children and 6 adults – not to mention his mother – before taking his own life. That he will become a monster capable of such a thing.
The magnitude of it all is just too much for me to comprehend. And it makes me want to cry.
As both a parent and an elementary school teacher, the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School has rocked me to the core. I think of those parents, having to face a life without those beautiful faces. I think of the teachers who sacrificed themselves to protect their students. I think of the survivors who have to live with the memories of that experience. I just cannot imagine.
And now, I worry that in light of the revelation that this poor, tortured, bright, awkward young man – a young man so intelligent he started college in his mid-teens – may indeed have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ignorant people will begin to be paranoid about ALL that are on the Spectrum. “Watch out! That autistic kid is going to go all nuts and shoot up the place!” Those of us who love someone on the Spectrum, already have to deal with many misunderstandings. My own family tells me that what Monkey #1 really needs is some effective discipline. Surely THAT would control his outbursts. I have witnessed the glares of people in stores and restaurants as he is experiencing some major sensory overload and is on the verge of a meltdown – or is in full-blown Asperger’s mode.
I just want to scream at them and say, “He isn’t BAD! He’s Autistic!!!!!!”
The shootings are tragic enough. Let’s not make things worse.
As I talked to Monkey #1, I quickly searched the internet for any information I could find that would give him enough data to sooth his soul. I happened upon an article from the LA Times, siting SEVERAL autism specialists from some very note-worthy institutions. I started reading it to him. Trying to console him in the only way I could. With facts. Facts he understands. Facts he can wrap his swirling head around. Facts that would help him to realize there is nothing about him that could cause him to act in such a manner.
What finally reached the terror within was this paraphrased statement: while someone with autism may lash out, they do so during an outburst. It is impulsive. They do not premeditate a violent action. I could hear his breathing begin to calm. I asked him, “When you hurt (Monkey #2), do you sit around for days planning what you are going to do to him?”
“No,” he replied. “It’s usually because I am mad at him and I hit him one time.”
“So, you don’t think about the ways you are going to hurt him and how many times you are going to hit him?”
“No, it just comes to me.”
“Then, baby, there’s the difference. You aren’t a monster. You are a sweet, wonderful, amazing child. And I love you very, very much.”
While that exchange was one of the most heart-breaking things I have ever experience, I am very very thankful that I was able to have that conversation with my sweet little monkey. There are 27 sets of parents in Connecticut tonight who aren’t as lucky.
And my heart bleeds for them.