An Evening with Jesse Saperstein, Author

Originally published 5/19/2010: Last night I had the pleasure of listening to a talk given by Jesse Saperstein, author of Atypical: Life with Asperger’s in 20 1/3 Chapters.  Mr. Saperstein spoke about some of his challenges growing up on the spectrum as well as how he’s fared as an adult with Asperger’s.  He was candid and engaging when recounting his difficulties with transitions, the awful time he had in college, dating and even the occasional inability to keep a job.  Yet, he never gave the impression that his life was all bad.  As a matter of fact, he said that there were times when it was rather amazing.  For example, right after college, he hiked the entire 2000 + miles of the Appalachian Trail.

I was very impressed with this young man’s wisdom and took some of his advice to heart.  He stressed the need for parents of children on the spectrum to accustom our kids to managing without aides in different environments.  To paraphrase: once they walk through that door after high school, all that support disappears.  Mr. Saperstein also advised that we let out children have as many ‘mainstream’ activities as they can handle, let them experience failure in order to learn from the process and to make sure that they understand that their behavior has consequences.  A strong work ethic instilled early on is absolutely essential if our kids are to succeed as adults, and while this is true for everyone, it is doubly true for individuals with social disabilities.

I look forward to reading and reviewing Atypical.  I just purchased it so the review will be soon.  If the book comes anywhere close to being as funny, honest and hopeful as Mr. Saperstein is in person, it will be an incredible read.

Update 12/1/2011: I highly recommend Jesse’s book, Atypical. He is a fascinating individual with an honest and unique voice. He displays a sharp wit, but also moments of vulnerability. This book is an excellent and quick read that sheds a good deal of light on what it is like to grow up with Asperger’s.

Imperfection

Penned in by the idea of perfection?

“The fastest way to break the cycle of perfectionism and become a fearless mother is to give up the idea of doing it perfectly – indeed to embrace uncertainty and imperfection.”

Arianna Huffington, Editor-in-Chief, Huffington Post

I sometimes catch myself feeling that I am the only person, the only parent, who just never seems to ‘get it right.’  That is, of course, a ridiculous, self-indulgent idea.  Just like it’s pretty silly to imagine I’m the only parent who has ever been too cross or too busy or too tired to be as good a parent as I aspire to be.  It would make better sense to wonder where that parent is who doesn’t second guess every other action,  reaction,  decision; who doesn’t beat herself (or himself) up for every screw-up because she doesn’t screw up.  In being the parent of a child with special needs, I think we tend to ramp the pressure up on ourselves even more.  After all, our kids have a hard enough time without us adding to the challenge.  Yet, I don’t recall receiving a Perfect Parent Handbook when Gus was born or when he was diagnosed.   Perfection is unattainable, and it’s important to learn to move on, because mistakes are inevitable.  Not only are they inevitable, but they are an essential aspect of the discovery process.  As the cinematographer Conrad Hall said, “There is a kind of beauty in imperfection.”

How ironic is it that I’d be the first person to advocate for acceptance of my autistic child

with all his imperfections – he is who he is – but it’s damn near impossible for me to automatically extend that same concession to myself?  Now there’s an interesting nugget to chew on.

Do you find it hard to move past a mistake you’ve made with your child?

*image by Tony Wills used under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License 3.0