[Originally published May 14, 2010.]

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Dear [Family Member/Friend/Relative Stranger/Jackass],

I’m sorry my nine-year-old son disrupted your…
a) beach vacation.
b) trip to the grocery store.
c) soccer game.
d) appointment with Doctor Vestergaard.

As you may/may not know, my son has Asperger’s Syndrome. It is a form of autism which impacts…
a) how he communicates.
b) his gross motor skills.
c) his fine motor skills
d) his sense of smell, taste, and hearing.
e) his ability to learn from his mistakes.
f) all of the above.

I’m sure you noticed one or more of these when he started screaming during the…
a) outdoor wedding.
b) estranged uncle’s funeral.
c) family photo shoot.
d) Yom Kippur service.

I can tell from your comments that you think I’m…
a) too strict.
b) too smothering.
c) too permissive.
d) not spanking enough.

In the heat of the moment, though, it was hard to hear your…
a) self-serving psycho babble.
b) succinct analysis of my flaws.
c) concerns about the state of my [marriage/mental health/recent weight gain, etc.].

Incidents of the type you witnessed used to happen in our family about twice a week. This is why we now employ the services of (including, but not limited to)…
a) a specialist in pediatric neurological development.
b) a speech-language pathologist.
c) a special education teacher.
c) an occupational therapist (who in addition to weekly appointments currently has us brushing his arms, legs and torso 5 times/day).

We have learned that his crying and wailing can be due to…
a) over-stimulation.
b) under-stimulation.
c) sibling rivalry.
d) anxiety.
e) who the hell knows.

In addition to your event, he has stormed out of…
a) Tryon State Park’s wilderness camp.
b) Congregation Shir Tikvah’s religious school.
c) ACCESS Academy (an alternative program for highly gifted youth).
d) all of the above.

For the record, he never stormed out of religious school. He put himself in the corner when he grew scared and overwhelmed. The teacher had to come and find me because he was starting to bang his head against the wall in front of eight other children.

We no longer take him to…
a) movies (too loud).
b) sports practices (he can’t keep up with other kids).
c) hiking (when he stops halfway through we can’t get him back to the trailhead).

I’m sorry he turned down your offer of…
a) yogurt.
b) hot cereal.
c) crackers (except Goldfish).
d) cheese (except on pizza).
e) salad with dressing (except Ranch).
f) cooked vegetables (except broccoli).
g) parsley, cucumbers, tomatoes, salsa, or avocados.

He won’t eat them at home either. He used to adore canned pineapple and peaches, peanut butter sandwiches, and tuna fish. Not anymore. There was one brand of tomato soup that he loved, but I can’t figure out which one it was.

In the [days/months/years] since his diagnosis and the [years/decades/lifetimes] before that, I have been trying to figure out my beloved child. Things have definitely improved, due to…
a) medications (they may cause permanent metabolic damage, but lessen the temper tantrums).
b) a change in our expectations (if he needs help putting on underwear, I’m going to goddamn dress him).
c) what I hope (keep your fingers crossed) may be maturation and growth in the structure of his brain.

Unfortunately, he is still largely unable to…
a) make eye contact.
b) understand that others have feelings.
c) plan ahead.
d) do schoolwork on his own.
f) stop smearing his fingers compulsively in the mashed potatoes and gravy on his dinner plate.
e) refrain from blurting out every random thought he has about Super Mario Brothers.

So forgive me if I seem…
a) bitter.
b) frightened for his future.
c) exhausted.

It’s only because I am.

a) Yours truly,
b) Love,
c) So screw you and your ill-informed advice,

Katie Schneider