Guest Blog

You Thought My Son on the Spectrum Was Spoiled: Why You Were Mistaken

24 Jun 2015 by Jason's Connection

From time to time, we like to invite guests to share their stories with us. Today’s guest blogger is an anonymous mom.–Ed.

Recently, a distant family friend affectionately mentioned to my adult son that he was impressed by his maturity, growth, and gracious sense of others. He framed this comment in the context that he had thought my son was “spoiled” as a youngster, and was pleasantly surprised at his ability to overcome it. Although this was meant as a warm compliment, it took my son and me aback. We both paused and reflected—what did this really mean?

But as we talked about this perception, we agreed that he did not always behave or appear when he was younger as does now. Experiencing sensory overload, and difficulty with social and emotional cues, he admittedly could interface quite differently when he was younger.

In elementary school, he was diagnosed with only a learning disability, not yet recognized as being on the spectrum. He none the less at times was rigid, had trouble with flexibility and transitions, appearing “stubborn” and inflexible, often talking enthusiastically on subject matters others may have not have had any interest in. He was not able at that point to fully appreciate or recognize the reciprocal give and take of everyday communication and friendships, even though (ironically) others’ feelings really did matter to him! To other adults or classmates as well as with his siblings, things seemed often to revolve around him and his desires, although admittedly for reasons we just did not yet understand back then. We just didn’t understand what was truly going on inside his brain, its ability to manage all the external and internal stimuli most of us just weed out or just manage with apparently seamless effort.

Years later, now, my caring adult son empathically shows interest in and cares about others’ feelings, experiences, and opinions, and he takes great interest and joy in others and the world around him. As he explains the inner working of his overloaded brain and physiology, it becomes clear that his childhood and adolescent behavior was a means to have some control over uncontrollable stimuli that could be overwhelming for him.

He now is able to better adapt, as most neurotypical young adults eventually do, and to mature outside of himself and manage his impulse control. He holds an immense appreciation for the people and relationships in his life and his professional career is centered on a spirit of generosity to others and making the world a better place for everyone.

What is important to recognize is the bigger picture of what our family friend was really saying—although our son on the spectrum may have had many visible and invisible challenges, he matured on his own developmental timeline, and in his own way. And as a mother I can be very proud!

—The Recovering Mother