Inside and out, Brandon’s world looks and feels different. Brandon Wise lives every day with Asperger’s syndrome – a form of autism.
Inside and out, Brandon’s world looks and feels different.
Whimsy doesn’t exist. It’s just facts, figures, rules and structure. Little things get to him: Changes in temperature, the sensation of the silverware on his tongue, the sounds of the furnace kicking on.
Many of the things that we barely notice, 10-year-old Perry Township resident Brandon Wise hears, feels and sees with incredible clarity.
His world is exactly like ours, except that he is more attuned to it, more engaged in it. His mind is always working – he can’t turn it off – even at night when he pulls the covers up over his head and tries to sleep.
“Everything is literally different for Brandon,” said his mother, Melissa Wise. “He perceives the world differently. Some of the things he talks about and does are different. He is eccentric.”
Eccentric is only part of the diagnosis. Brandon lives every day with Asperger’s syndrome – a form of autism.
Like Brandon, the syndrome is unique. Autism, though still highly misunderstood, is slowly being better defined through studies and research, according to Dr. Mike McCabe, a pediatrician with Aultman Hospital.
What has been discovered is that no form of autism is ever the same. Children and adults who live with autism vary in their abilities to function on sociological levels.
Asperger’s is considered “high-functioning” autism.
“When people think of autism they picture kids flapping their hands or rocking in the corner of the room,” McCabe said. “Asperger’s is a form of autism because it is a developmental disorder, but it separates itself because the amount of developmental delays or problems are less.”
In other words, McCabe said, children who are diagnosed with Asperger’s will grow and develop and communicate in ways that are only subtly different than other children their age. Asperger’s children are simply more socially awkward.
With age, those traits that make them more socially awkward – traits that have them breaking social paradigms and norms every day – will stand out more and more.
“They are not developmentally aware of the social norms,” McCabe said. “They have a desire – they want to be social – but they don’t always understand how to (act in social situations).”
For Brandon, those actions are subtle: Blurting out the answer without raising his hand. Interrupting a conversation to offer his input. Not making eye contact when talking with someone. Focusing on his hand-held video game system instead of talking with friends on the bus or before wrestling practice.
Dr. Melanie Mirande, a family practitioner in North Canton, is the Wise family’s doctor. She’s seen Brandon for regular checkups since he was a tot and has gotten to know all about those things that make him unique and “different.”
“He calls ’em like he sees ’em,” Mirande said. “Don’cha my man?”
In his world, there is no mincing words. He’ll tell you exactly what he thinks, even if it may be considered rude.
“Kids think he is weird … but they have gotten used to him,” Melissa said. “They know how to handle him and how to help him handle stuff so he doesn’t have a meltdown.”
That’s the other thing: The “meltdowns.” Brandon lives by rules, structure and routine. Straying from that routine, even in the slightest sense, throws his entire world off kilter.
“If people played a game incorrectly, he had a meltdown. We were at a friend’s house one night, and he spent 45 minutes reading the directions to the game,” Melissa recalled. “You know kids, they just wanted to play and they did. They made up their own rules. He took the game and walked out because they weren’t playing it correctly and that upset him.”
In time, though, with patience, guidance and therapy, Brandon has been able to better adapt to his world. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t still talking out of turn, offering his opinion, not making eye contact or having a meltdown when his routine is upset. It just means that he is slowly making progress.
And that isn’t easy for anyone. Especially a kid.
“Growing up,” Mirande said, “is hard enough without the added stigma of your problem.”
But Brandon is doing well in school and making friends and learning how to interact with others because he has a strong support system around him, she said.
“He does well because of Mom and Dad. They have him plugged in,” Mirande said. “He has a great family. Nobody treats him any differently and I think that’s the key.
“I wish I could lie to you. I wish I could sit here and tell you that medicine could solve all his problems or has answers to all of his questions,” Mirande said. “When you live with Asperger’s, it’s about getting through every day. Family and friends are key. … He’s got two fantastic parents who love him and support him and that is most important.”
Did Einstein have Asperger's?
Although there is no hard evidence to prove the diagnosis, some famous names have been connected to autism and Asperger’s syndrome.
Professor Michael Fitzgerald, of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, published a book in 2004 titled “Autism and Creativity.” Through it he examines some of the world’s most-beloved historical figures who may also have shown signs of autism and/or Asperger’s Syndrome. Some of those historical figures include Socrates, Charles Darwin, Andy Warhol, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Lewis Carroll and W.B. Yeats.
'A dash of autism'
Asperger’s syndrome was discovered by pediatrician Hans Asperger in the 1940s. The syndrome was discovered as Asperger studied the awkward social behavior of boys who were otherwise “normal” in their development. Since that time, children with the syndrome have been described as having “a dash of autism.” Although the syndrome was discovered in the 1940s. it was not officially recognized as a disorder until 1994.
Symptoms of Asperger's
Asperger’s syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism, manifests itself in a number of ways in both children and adults. Symptoms of the syndrome include:
- Lacks a natural ability to pick up on social cues. Children with Asperger’s may not be able to read body language, start or maintain a conversation or may not understand how to take turns in a conversation.
- Routines mean everything. Changes to routines are not easily handled by the child.
- The child may appear to lack empathy.
- Changes in tone, speech, pitch or accent are not easily recognized. Children with Asperger’s may not understand sarcasm or emotion because the changes in speech are unrecognizable.
- The speaking style of the child may seem advanced for his or her age.
- Avoids eye contact or stares at others.
- Few things may become obsessions for the child. He or she may become extremely knowledgeable about a certain topic or item.
- Conversation is important to the child, but the conversations are one-sided. The child will engage in long-winded talks, usually about a single, favorite – but narrow – topic such as snakes, baseball statistics or weather patterns. Often, Asperger’s children verbalize internal thoughts, even if doing so may be considered “rude.”
- Delayed motor development is common. Children with Asperger’s have low muscle tone and often have trouble with simple tasks such as catching a ball, picking up a fork or even walking.
- Extreme sensitivity to noises, sounds and touch is common.