Last night I finished reading Finding Ben: A Mother’s Journey Through the Maze of Asperger’s by Barbara LaSalle. It wasn’t a feel-good read, but it was very educational and very interesting. Finding Ben is written by Ben’s mother, but with the guidance, approval and internal thoughts of Ben, the individual with Asperger’s syndrome. Ben was born in 1969, a couple decades before Asperger’s Syndrome was a true known medical disability with a scientific name, and he was misunderstood well into his 20’s and probably still to this day. He was labeled a genius because he could read at the age of 18months and memorize entire radio shows, commercials, etc., but he couldn’t walk, ride a bike, throw a ball, write, jump, etc. until much later in life, so he was labeled slow, retarded, mentally disabled. His social skills were very poor and making friends was extremely challenging…virtually impossible, even his own mother wanted to change him. He seemed selfish because he dominated conversations, never asked how others were or was even aware of other’s feelings.
Throughout his life, he went from school to school then from assisted living home to assisted living home to hospital wings for mentally unstable individuals to jail to homes again…it was a long a painful process for both Ben and his mother. It wasn’t until Ben was in his 20’s that he was given the diagnosis of autism and it wasn’t until his 30’s (I think) that he was given the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome.
This book details the good and the bad of having a child with a disability and wanting to fix your child as opposed to accepting your child for whom they are. The moral of the story is that mental disabilities aren’t necessarily anyone’s fault and while they can be challenging to handle, they make individuals unique and we must accept and love everyone for who they are as opposed to trying to conform them to society’s standard of normal. Everyone needs love. Everyone yearns for acceptance…maybe not everyone, but the majority. Being the outcast isn’t a fun role to be in.
Before reading this book, I didn’t know anything about Asperger’s, but now I have some insight into the mind and the lives of individuals with this diagnosis. I enjoy learning about mental and physical disabilities through personal encounters as opposed to textbooks. I am by no means an expert on Asperger’s, but I do believe that I have gained an appreciation and an understanding of how different the mind can be. Every now and then you just need to be reminded that everyone needs to be loved and that is exactly what Ben needed. He needed his mom to listen to him and love him for him as opposed to trying to change him.