Asperger Syndrome: Living the Dream

September 7, 2010

By Dan Coulter

It was the dead of winter in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.  In the gathering darkness, Julie and I got off the snow-plowed highway and walked carefully across the icy restaurant parking lot toward our dinner break.

A waiter in his 20s greeted us, “How are you tonight?”

“We’re great. How are you?”

That’s when our waiter, in the midst of the clatter and chatter of the dining room, went off-script.  He smiled wryly and said, “Living the dream.”

We joked with him briefly and gave him our order.  We tacitly accepted that his dream was not to wait tables in a crowded, western-themed restaurant in Kristen Chenoweth’s hometown.  He was just a resourceful guy doing the best he could in a tough economy. 

Every parent of a child with Asperger Syndrome has a dream.  That your child will grow up to be independent and self sufficient and happy.  The same things most parents wish for.

While there is no magic bullet that will work for every child, the closest thing I’ve found is passion. 

I read a great story recently on southcoasttoday.com about Abraham Durant, a seventeen year old with Asperger Syndrome who discovered an interest in “old things.”  Abe became passionate about antiques and used his exceptional Asperger memory to learn about and recognize valuable items.   In one incident, he found an old navy knife at a flea market, negotiated the price down from a dollar to 50 cents, and did an Internet search to discover it was worth $200.  Abe has impressed local antique dealers, and one predicts that he’ll, “make an excellent appraiser and dealer someday.”

Not everyone with Asperger Syndrome exhibits a special interest.  Not every interest has an obvious career connection.  But it’s worth it to keep looking, and to expose your child to as many experiences as possible.  You never know what might spark an interest or how you might craft that interest into a job.

The magic might not lie in one specific job, but an area of interest.  If your child is fascinated by television, perhaps just the idea of working at a TV station would be enough to engage his interest and help him be a great employee. 

Our son, Drew, was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in 1997.  He still struggles with some tasks that just don’t grab his attention.  But when he is interested, he’s amazing.  Crisp, intuitive and exceptionally knowledgeable.   While he’s crossed a major independence plateau, working two jobs and living on his own, we still have dreams about how much farther he can go. 

His mom and I offer encouragement, but we see Drew’s interests as his primary motivator.  And we realize that the dream is not just about reaching a goal. It’s also what you do along the way. 

The minute you help your child realize how much he would enjoy doing a job that involves his special interest, and see him begin to take the initiative, you and your child begin living the dream.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Dan Coulter is the producer of thirteen videos about Asperger Syndrome and autism.  “Asperger Syndrome at Work” is designed to help people with Asperger Syndrome find and keep a job.  You can read more information and articles on Dan's website: www.coultervideo.com.

Copyright 2010 Dan Coulter    All Rights Reserved.      Used by Permission.

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