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Dinosaurs, Asperger’s and a Mother’s Love

Wednesday, August 05, 2015


dinosaurs autism and a mother's loveAs parents when we have children who are challenged in some way, we will go to great lengths to take care of them. A New York Times article on excavating dinosaur fossils from the Grand Staircase monument called the Kaiparowits Plateau flooded my mind with memories…


When my autistic daughter was a teen, I took her to three North American Paleontology Conferences so that she could earn science credits for high school. She was terrified in public school because she was tormented by other students. But she loved paleontology and felt comfortable around the scientists because she could converse very knowledgeably on the topic of her "special interest”.

I had called Dr. Jere Lipps, paleontology professor at the University of California at Berkeley and he’d graciously told me that my daughter was more than welcome. She received an award for being the youngest participant. I was very proud of her—even though she’d needed a dose of Klonopin (an anti-anxiety drug) to make it through each day.

Here’s an excerpt from my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD), which tells of the experience:

“In a dimly lit motel room, I sit in front of my laptop, uploading photos from the day’s exploration on the Oklahoma prairie. Next to me, sprawling on her bed is my 15-year-old daughter. She’s reading a novel, her usual pastime. She is re-reading Raptor Red. She loves this book so much, and reads it so often, that she’s literally worn it out. I have bought her more than one copy to keep her happy…

By day we sight dinosaur tracks permanently etched into rock where millions of years ago a mighty river dried up and created mud flats, the perfect medium for storing ancient footprints. On another day, we follow our guides past fences and “No Trespassing” signs to witness evidence of dinosaur nests with bits of fossilized eggshell still scattered on the ground.

Amazingly. I take most of the photos, because my daughter is mesmerized by the experience. She needs the photos to document the field trip for school credit. As usual, I remain the “responsible party,” a trait of helicopter mothers the world over. She’s the youngest member of the expedition and kind of an honorary member since most participants are professional paleontologists, graduate students, or adults with an amateur’s passion. In true helicopter mother fashion, I’d searched high and low for a way to leverage my daughter’s interest in paleontology and art into a high school science credit. I had to be inventive in those days since there were no educational programs for “twice exceptional” kids at the time (i.e. Asperger Syndrome and gifted).

I am uploading pictures from the camera, picking out the best shots and inserting them into a PowerPoint presentation. It is her task to write a description of each photo. That will be a test of her paleontological knowledge as well as a test of her limited patience. She complains that she is tired. She complains that she is hungry. She complains that she can’t remember anything. She complains about me and my helicoptering. With enough coaxing and bribes of snacks from the hotel canteen machines, she finishes the PowerPoint for that day. We celebrate by calling Dad and her sister to say, “Good night.” Then we fall into bed exhausted.”

Perhaps you recognized this scenario in your life. I enjoyed sharing these experiences with my daughter. Yet I wish I had had someone to guide me through these trying times. That’s why I’m so happy to tell you that we’re almost ready to start the new international video conferences for families of those with ASD! It’s going to be wonderful getting to talk with you face-to-face. I’ll give you more details soon.
Out of Mind Out of Sight Parenting with a partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)


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