Monday, March 19, 2012

Last Man Out…

Being excluded it hard. Most people don’t enjoy being left out, being picked last, or even worse, not being chosen at all. We want to be wanted. We want to fit in. We want to belong, to matter, to make a ripple in the world around us.

People with Aspergers generally know that they are out of step, but they don’t understand why. They may think that they are ‘fitting in’ when in fact they are being ridiculed or even ignored.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders or NINDS describes some symptoms of Asperger Syndrome as:
  • problems with non-verbal communication, including the restricted use of gestures, limited or inappropriate facial expressions, or a peculiar, stiff gaze
  • clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements
  • [kids with Aspergers may have] developmental delays in motor skills such as pedaling a bike, catching a ball, or climbing outdoor play equipment.   They are often awkward and poorly coordinated with a walk that can appear either stilted or bouncy. 

It’s 1993. Steve and I had been married for just a few short months. My exercise class had moved its class time to right after Steve got home from work so I invited him to come with me as there were a couple of other husbands who were starting to come. He agreed, so off we went.

After some stretching and floor routines, we all stood up and the teacher started jumping jacks. I was in the middle of the group and Steve was in the back row with two other guys. Good rock and roll was booming from the speakers as the teacher began her count. “One and two and three and…” Arms up and out as feet jumped apart on the ‘number' count, then arms down against sides as feet hopped back together on the ‘and’ count.

At least everyone but Steve. By the count of three or four I could see in the mirror in front of me that he was off count, doing the jumping jacks exactly backwards from the rest of us. I hopped back a row so I was in front of him. I said over my shoulder, “Follow me!”

He didn’t. Instead he began a crazy hopping back and forth movement while wildly swinging his arms around and making bazaar faces at the back of my head. Then he began cackling and laughing hysterically. I wanted to sink through the floor.

The rest of the class didn't go much better. Steve couldn’t match our movements. He fell over. He did his ‘own’ thing. I'm not sure if he got any exercise at all.

On the way home I tried to find out what had happened. Steve had no idea that anything was amiss. He truly couldn’t tell that he was out of sync. I never took him back to class with me. No one asked me to either.

When Steve runs, he has an odd side to side gait instead of a normal forward to back stride. He doesn’t seem to know what to do with his arms. He will flop his head around. It can be a bit disturbing to watch. He isn’t really interested in sports, but will occasionally throw some horseshoes or try some beach volleyball as long as it’s not competitive. And yes, he usually gets picked last.

So Steve stays active by walking our dog. She doesn’t care how he looks; she just loves to go for walks. They usually walk a couple of miles every day. It’s a great stress reliever for them both.

I really need to learn how to wag.

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