Tuesday, April 1

About Brandon and Asperger's Syndrome

The photo above is an old photo of Brandon. It was about grade 4 or 5, so he would have been nine or ten years old. See the way he holds his mouth. He is trying to smile because the school photographer thinks all the parents will want their kids smiling in the photos. Since this was taken we have requested that when the boys have their school photos taken that the photographer doesn't ask them to smile. This is a "pose." Brandon is the type of person who only smiles if there is something to smile about. Most of his photos do not include a smile. I guess he takes after me. I am not a smiler either.

Yesterday I posted about Asperger's Syndrome because April is International Autism Awareness Month. Some of my readers asked some questions and I would like to address them, plus let you all know some of the problems that children with Asperger's Syndrome face.

First, I will address the questions. Someone asked if we connected Brandon's Asperger's to his vaccinations. He was six years old before he was formally identified. When he was little, about two years old, he had a fixation with Hot Whe*el cars. He would line them up rigidly. The line of cars had to be perfectly aligned. If one was out of line or if we moved them, he would put them back and line them up perfectly once again. At the time, we thought this was cute. Little did we know it was a sign that something was wrong. In hindsight we connect his twelve month needle with his autism. It is the measles, mumps and rebella needle, aka MMR. Today it is sometimes referred to as the "autism needle."

Brandon had a lot of problems when he was young. He had trouble making friends at school and still does but to a lesser extent. I think this is because he hangs around with other boys who likes the same things as he does. It gives him something to discuss and they play together. He also had trouble reading body language, which is typical of children with Asperger's Syndrome. We used exaggerated facial expressions and body language to teach him. We would frown, pretend to be crying, exaggerate our smiles and fold our arms across our chest. Then we would ask him what it meant and explain why we were acting as we were. By doing this, we taught him to recognize body language and facial expressions. He has a good handle on this now.

People with Asperger's Syndrome often have trouble recognizing sarcasm and cliches. Brandon does recognize sarcasm now, but still sometimes has trouble with cliches. Sometimes I'll say something to him and he'll ask me what I mean. I explain in simple terms and then he "gets it."

Another thing that we taught Brandon was to ask when he didn't understand something. At one time if he didn't "get it," he would puzzle over it for days. Now he asks what it means and we explain in simple terms. He is learning every day.

In November 2005, Brandon went into a deep depression. He would cry all the time and missed a lot of days off school. He said he didn't know why he was crying and we couldn't figure it out. One day in late November, he and Jordan came over to go sledding right after a big snow storm. As we were walking across to the park, his eyes filled up with tears. I stopped while hubby and Jordan went ahead. I told him, "Brandon, you have to tell Grandma why you are so sad all the time." He looked me in the eye (another thing we had to teach him because people with Asperger's Syndrome avoid eye contact) and said, "I'm afraid you're going to die."

It felt like I'd been punched in the stomach. I asked him, "Why would you think that?" He said, "I heard you and Mom talking and know that you have cancer."

I had a small cancerous growth on the bridge of my nose and I guess he'd heard me and Michelle talking about me having to go to have it removed. I explained that this kind of cancer would not kill Grandma and that my brother had had it for fifteen years. I explained that once it was removed, I would have a little red spot on the bridge of my nose for a few days. Then that would be it. Brandon seemed content with that and though he didn't get over his depression overnight, he improved greatly.

When Brandon's depression hit, he began to hoard garbage. He would hide wrappers from food and anything else in his bedroom closet. He didn't want anything to go into the garbage. His parents and I worked with him constantly and though he still hides stuff once in a while, he is 95% better. He was diagnosed with a touch of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which can go along with the Asperger's Syndrome.

Brandon has improved greatly in the last four years, thanks to an understanding Vice Principal who worked with him for two years. She made a big difference in Brandon's life and helped us to teach him lifeskills that he needed. Before she was a Vice Principal, she had been a Special Education teacher and she definitely knew her stuff.

There is so much to Asperger's Syndrome that I could write on it for days on end and still not tell you all that we have learned. I will be glad to answer any questions and try to share my knowledge and that of Michelle in order to bring more awareness to Asperger's Syndrome.

I want to thank everyone for their comments on yesterday's article and their interest in becoming more educated about autism, yet I don't want to bore you. I have been studying the subject for the last six years and still don't know a great deal about it. Asperger's Syndrome is a definite mystery and people who have it perceive things much differently than the average person. It is likened to a tapestry where the average person sees the entire thing. Those with Asperger's Syndrome see every thread. It is hard to imagine sometimes what Brandon is seeing, but I do ask him to explain it to me. The more he tells me about what he sees, the more I can try to understand. Thanks for following this to the end. It is all quite complicated. ~Blessings, Mary~


  1. I can see how complicated this is but I do appreciate learning about it. Our 5 year old grandson is a little Obsessive/Compulsive about a few things, especially his clothes. I find this odd for a 5 year old and sometimes wonder what the cause is. I recently read a study about the link between autism and tv, it too was very interesting. We tend to keep the grandkids away from tv because they become so absorbed they can't carry on a conversation. You are very fortunate to have a caring vice principle. I bet that alone makes a huge difference in Brandons life. Thanks for sharing this, Mary...it is something we all need to know more about. HUGS!

  2. Thanks for sharing this Mary - it is very interesting to hear from someone who truly knows it.

  3. My Grandson that has autism is in Vanderbilt's Children's Hospital and has been there 3 times in the last two weeks. He suffers from ulcerative colitis. They had to give him two units of blood and put in a pick line... Please remember us in your prayers....Mary

  4. Okay, now greatfullivin has me curious. What is the link between autism and TV? I didn't realize there was such a thing. These are excellent posts. I'm going to tell my friend about them. Both of her sons are autistic.

  5. What a wonderful post and you are an exceptional grandmother.. He will grow into a fine young man and he will so remember the life lessons that he is learning... I have no understanding of Autism but after reading your two post I now am a bit more educated..... How sad to think that in our effort to protect our babies from the childhood diseases that we have inflicted such grief....... Man is not as smart as he thinks he is........ Your grandson is charming thanks for sharing this personal part of your life........ and I just have one thing to say to you...... SMILE... it makes people wonder what you are up to......


  6. I so recognise that smile from my autistic son!
    He too only smiled when he was really happy.

    I don't link autism to vaccinations, because I saw the signs in all of my 4 boys who have it well before.
    I think it helped that I studies psychology and my special subject was autism.

    I think Brandon is lucky to have you in his life.

  7. This was outstanding. I truly can empathize with your emotions, your questions, your concerns, and your own 'grandmotherly' ability and strive to understand it all. I too read tons of literature on our grandson's syndrome, but I also have to stop and say to myself "Each and every ONE afflicted is different, so I just log it into my brain for 'reference' and not try to make any conclusions that this and that is our child. Y'know what I mean? Like a 'normal' person, whether they be child or adult are individualistic and 'traits' are just that....

    It's just hard to explain. What I find most rewarding and exceptional is the sibling, and the nurturing and the 'best buddy' I see in our youngest grandson...he's there for his older brother. Now THAT to me is what God intended all along.

    It's just been a phenomenal experience to grow up with our Down's child. I've learned to see life through his eyes and instead of seeing all the sarcastic aspects of life....I can now see good in just about everything as he tends to do all the time now. It's been one amazing ride.

  8. Oh, and PS....I too don't link vaccinations to disorders. I feel the 'gene' was there to begin with...right at the start.

  9. I enjoyed your photos and information about your visit to the sugar bush … such a special outing to share with your grandsons. Thanks also for your information about Autism Awareness Month … and your grandson with Asperger’s Syndrome. I’m reminded that I came across someone else writing about Autism earlier this morning and made a note to pass the info on to you. You can find Raven's post here along with a link to her friend who is also posting on Autism this month.
    Hugs and blessings,

  10. Such a wonderful post, I am enjoying learning about this. Your grandson is a true blessing, he is lucky to have you in his life. I love you my friend.

  11. Bless Brandon!! You are all so patient with him and I know you are because you love him of course!! We have been blessed to have wonderful grandchildren...I just pray that Brandon keeps on learning how to handle this. I am sure that he will with all of you around him.

  12. Hi Mary

    I saw your comment on Raven's blog and wanted to stop by and read about Brandon.

    I'm so glad I did. I learned so much and I was so touched by how you are so patient and open-minded and open-hearted. And Brandon sounds like such a great guy :)

    Your entire blog is lovely. All the spring decals and pics. I traveled up and down your sidebar twice.

  13. Learning new things is never boring Mary ;--)

    I stopped by again to let you know I left something for you at Small Reflections just now to enjoy and share with others.

    Hugs and blessings,

  14. Dear Mary...many thanks for sharing this info...as with all afflictions, the more that is known, the better things are.
    I think you and Brandon are BOTH blessed having ea other in your lives.
    hugs, bj

  15. My best friends son is Autistic.
    She has done massive research and taken him to specialists who work to remove the toxic build up in his blood. Also because they tend to develop food allergies easily she has him tested often and keeps him on a very strict diet.
    She can always tell when he has had something at school that he should not because he acts out.
    He used to be totally silent and closed off--now if you saw he his response are like boys his own age.

    Thank you for making people aware of this. We need to know more. There is so much that can be done to help these children if it is recognized early.

  16. Hi Mary, I just wanted to stop by and let you know....I have a little something for you, stop over when time permits, Hugs!

  17. Hello dear Mary:-)

    I'm finally back to regular blogging and trying to get caught up with everyone...it's slow going but I'm getting there! Make sure you drop by my blog to read my announcement:-)

    Thank you for educating us on Brandon's Asperger's Syndrome...I had heard of it before but never really knew all the details of how it affected a person. He's very lucky that he has such a loving family to help him. Is this something he will always have or do they outgrow it once they reach adulthood? I hope that's not a stupid question!!

    I so loved your post about your trip to the Sugar Bush at Westfield Village...I recognized all the buildings because Steve & I were there last April:-) If you want to see some of the pictures I had taken there, this is the link to that post:

    Take good care dear friend! xoxo

  18. Here's the full link...hope it works this time! lol


  19. Thanks Mary, another lovely post about autism. My son has really taken the death of his uncle to heart. I don't think I see actual depression but this post will help me look for it. He mostly has a difficult time at night. It has been about two months and the other night he was so incredibly upset because he couldn't remember what his uncle looked like. I really don't know why so many things say our autistic kids don't have regular emotions. I really think they do but it may be more difficult to express.

  20. Mary,

    What an excellent post. I learned so much about autism by reading it. I'm amazed at how much you know about it. It shows how much you truly care about Brandon, by learning as much as you can, to be able to help him as much as possible.

    Brandon is lucky to have you for his Grandma!

    Thank you for the great lesson on autism. Take care, and God bless!



    PS. I enjoyed the Sugar Bush post as well. You have been going there with the boys for several years now, as I recall.

  21. Hi Mary,
    I also love someone with autism...matter fact about a dozen of them. I work with children that just learn and play in a different way. God has blessed my life by placing me in their lives. When I went back to school I prayed that God would give me a passion for something beyond my wildest dreams and that He did. Everyday I learn something new and love the joy of figuring out a way to help them "get it". It is the joy of my life. However, I know how stressful and tiring it is too. I lift up your Brandon and all your family, each teacher, student/friend that your sweet boy has cross his path.
    Many blessings.

  22. Mary,,,,,,,, I hate that you cannot get Google Earth..... I love it..... I go there every once in a while..... I have typed in your city and looked all around..... I had trouble with it when I first tried to down load....... do you have a fast processor? Lots of Ram? oh I do hate that....... it is quite a marvel..........

    Love ya gal........ talk to you tomorrow

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