A few weeks ago, on the way back from St. Andrews, I read Love That Boy, a memoir by the US political journalist Ron Fournier about bringing up his son with Asperger’s. What makes that book different from many other similar books is that Fournier worked within the White House press corps and he took his son Tyler with him to learn about the Presidency and to learn about each other, to bond. The title comes from something that George W. Bush said to Fournier when he brought Tyler to the Oval Office and Tyler went off on a monologue.
Just now, I have been listening to a podcast called The Axe Files, presented by David Axelrod, a key political strategist to Barack Obama. (He also advised Ed Miliband during the 2015 general election.) In one episode, Axelrod interviews Ron Fournier, who said something that has struck home with me. I have reproduced it below:
‘The doctors would tell you that these young men with Asperger’s, with high functioning autism. They have another ten years after they hit 18 where they can still really develop, if you keep them out in the world and keep teaching them the skills that come naturally to most of the rest of us…They get lost socially and crawl within themselves. Depression is a big problem with them and isolation is a big problem with them because they are off on their own and the only thing they are strong at is academics. Not the social part of life.’
I often talk about living my teens now. Being out in the world and being taught these skills has made me the person I am today. The social part of life is something that I am getting stronger at. And I am still growing, at age 26, and I will continue to. Every day is an opportunity for growth. A lot of the life experiences people have by this age haven’t happened for me yet. Sometimes that can be frustrating. That’s putting it mildly. But they are happening, slowly but they are. I am impatient. I was speaking to someone earlier who bemoaned the fact that they are impatient. I am often told I am patient but it’s because I have had to be. To quote the Rolling Stones, you can’t always get what you want. But you get what you need.
Or to put it another way, you just need to persevere. It’s my strategy and it works.