It’s all because of my Aspergers.
Itai was preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. He needed to spend time learning his Torah portion, but he would always find excuses why he couldn’t do it. When his parents got impatient with him over that, or over having to ask him to tidy his room one too many times, he would blow up and throw tantrums just like his three year old sister. Itai had Aspergers, and would blame that for everything. Whenever things didn’t go his way or whenever he felt frustrated or blue, he would shrug, saying “it’s all because of my Aspergers”.
Aspergers is a challenging condition and it truly did cause Itai problems. He had a hard time communicating, and didn’t understand social norms. As a result, very few of his classmates had the patience or maturity to try and look past his strange behavior and befriend him. Itai was isolated and lonely. Having American parents didn’t help him fit in either. Itai was frequently absent from school, and so found it hard to keep up.
He had to stop believing that his Aspergers label defined him
Itai saw a Kav L’Noar therapist once a week, who would liaise regularly with his psychiatrist. They both agreed that despite the Aspergers, Itai was unusually intelligent and self-aware. Itai didn’t need special dispensations. Itai’s therapist worked with him on regulating his emotions and behavior. The therapist helped him find ways to stay calm in stressful situations. He also worked with Itai to help him understand what was appropriate and what other people would expect from him in all sorts of scenarios.
Meanwhile, Itai’s school was running out of patience with him. They said that his Aspergers meant that a mainstream framework wasn’t suitable. If he didn’t radically improve, they would recommend that he be transferred out of the school and into a special needs system. Yet Itai’s therapist, convinced that Itai had the inner strengths and resources to do well in a regular environment, thought that this would be completely wrong for him. He implored the principal to give him another chance. Itai was more than capable, but he had to stop believing that his Aspergers label defined him.
Proud to be special
With the help of his therapist, Itai made the mature decision to take responsibility for his own school career. He started to come to school every day, on time. He participated in class and took the time to do his homework. Within weeks, his grades had shot up. Thanks to all the work he had put in with his therapist, Itai also became much more socially confident. His unique, quirky personality didn’t change, but he was no longer terrified to show it. As a result, his classmates came to accept him for who he was, and he started to make friends with one or two who appreciated his eccentric sense of humor and incredible imagination. A few months later, these friends came to celebrate Itai’s Bar Mitzvah together with his proud family.
Picture is for illustration purposes only