My benefit efforts this year, musical performance and otherwise, will center on raising awareness for Asperger’s Syndrome. It is clear to me that these autistic children and adults are precious yet misunderstood. The children and adults, particularly the girls and women, with this are in need of spokespeople, advocates and teachers who value and strive to understand them. They are in essence the forgotten ones.
I call them Forgotten because people with Asperger’s are at the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, and their situation may go undiagnosed for many, many painful, lonely years, perhaps well into adulthood. In particular, girls are frequently forgotten because they tend to compensate better for the traits that Asperger’s brings and are diagnosed much later. This is the case with my daughter. She’s beautiful, bright, talented, articulate, and a whiz in both arts and sciences. While she was uncomfortable in social situations, she had the grace and patience to muddle through them, even managing to come off as charming.
Privately, however, she was in torment. I have only recently learned the extent of her pain, and the social trauma she has suffered for years in school. The experience, as we found out recently at an Asperger’s information conference at Cape Cod, is similar to simultaneous stimulations from paper scraping her skin while several people are barking at her. And synthesizing her experience into words is not something she can easily do. It is all she has known. How does one describe the color Lavender to a blind person? Or, as she would put it, how does one describe the mechanics of tree climbing to a slippery fish? Her eyes, of course, would be rolling all the while. As it turns out, being an Aspie does not preclude her from the universal teen eye-roll as she educates her familial inferiors.
This year it is my intent to help this cause, and to grow closer to my daughter on her level. This is a journey for the both of us. For those who are “Neurotypical” (NT, people who do not have Asperger’s), reaching an Aspie can be like setting off on a labyrinthine quest with riddle-bearing sphinxes at every turn. Music, as it turns out, is a language common to both Aspies and NTs alike. I want to find ways to get closer to my daughter, and in doing so to become an advocate for all girls and women with Asperger’s. I hope with all my heart to bring both our worlds together.
Sadly, I lost my father John Taylor Thomas on February 15th
He was my hero, my dearest friend, and my inspiration
Here's a link to my blog titled "A Collage of My Father."
My father gestured large, outstretching
and with the moist starry eyes of a man who
had just lost his lady shrine of sixty seven years
to that great battle of a last gasp
said, I’ve come to see everything
everything, my sons, and you
are so like her
and he set his gaze as if on a lute or harp
and had no more words.
Soon after that, he died
I cried listening for his life’s encore
dreamt of the purity in his eyes and his outstretched
which still conduct the music
which is often delightful but sometimes mournful
splayed out like heavy wet birds
rising full-bodied at their own slow tempo, overhead
or a wave of renegade dreams
spilling over the grayest of porous rocks
until they are suffused
major, minor, melodic, infinite.
© Christine Tsen 2012. This poem originally published in Big River Poetry Review (www.bigriverpoetry.com)
My beautiful angel of a mother, Bessie P. Thomas ("Mimi")
Last Good Bye