Ben did very well in the early grades learning to read and spell. His writing, however, was atrocious. He became a wonderful reader and seemed to comprehend everything he read. Also, he became an excellent speller and absorbed correct grammar and punctuation along the way.
His math skills appeared to be the weakest link in his learning process. In the early grades, he did fine in math, but in middle school and high school, math was definitely a problem for him.
In kindergarten the children were playing “Duck, Duck, Goose.” It is a game that requires the one who is “it” to choose another child to be the next “it.” When he did not get chosen, he would cry and cry. We later learned this to be the beginning of a life filled with depression.
Some teachers learned that Ben would obey written commands better than oral instructions. During these elementary years was when we discovered there was a disconnect between what he heard and what his brain processed. Some, without realizing his disability, thought he was lazy or just did not want to obey. Ben has always appeared so very normal; however his disability was and is as real as one who can not get around without a wheelchair.
When Ben was nine years old a psychologist from the Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis, Minnesota, came to South Dakota, where Ben and his family lived at the time. It was then that he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. The psychiatrist explained that the Asperger's Syndrome was like an umbrella under Autism and under it was also Attention Deficit Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Depression (At least in Ben's case).
Shortly after the diagnosis Ben's dad was transferred to Randolph Air Force Base, TX. and we began the process of learning all we could about the disorder. Ben's mom heard about a conference that was going to be held in the Dallas area. Dr. Tony Attwood, the leading expert in the field of Asperger Syndrome at the time, was to be the main speaker. She attended the conference and came away with a wealth of helpful information.
As an aside, when Ben heard that she was going to the conference, he said, “Good, Mom. Maybe you can learn how I can make friends.” Ben had no friends and it was sad when his birthday came around because there was no one to invite to his birthday party. He realized this and was actually grieved because of it.