How does any father bond with their teenage son, let alone a teenage son that happens to have Aspberger Syndrome? They head out together on a tour of homes and libraries of various presidents, of course.
The National Journal‘s Ron Fournier did this with his son Tyler at his wife Lori’s behest, and he writes about the experience in the magazine’s latest issue. Fournier joined Morning Joe Tuesday to discuss Tyler and his story, and he had an empathetic ear in Joe Scarborough, whose son Andrew also has Asperger’s.
“Tyler is loving, charming, and brilliant—he has a photographic memory—but he lacks basic social skills,” Fournier writes in his piece. “He doesn’t know when he’s being too loud or when he’s talking too much. He can’t read facial expressions to tell when somebody is sad, curious, or bored. He has a difficult time seeing how others view him. Tyler is what polite company calls awkward. I’ve watched adults respond to him with annoyed looks or pity. Bullies call him goofy, or worse.”
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines Asperger Syndrome as “an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), one of a distinct group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by social impairment, communication difficulties, and restrictive, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.”
The institute also notes Asperger is “…considered by many to be the mildest form of ASD and is synonymous with the most highly functioning individuals with ASD.”
Fournier’s heartwarming piece shows the great lengths parents go to for their children.
Tyler, a lover of history and presidents (Theodore Roosevelt is his favorite historical figure), was lucky to have a father who covered the White House for the Associated Press and had access to both President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton, who both took a shine to Tyler even when his more Aspergian traits came out.
“Bush, a man who famously doesn’t suffer fools or breaches of propriety, gave my son the benefit of the doubt,” Fournier writes.
Scarborough shared stories about life with his son Andrew, including one of his attempts at engaging girls his age in a discussion about the band Blink-182.
“Thanks to the team Lori put together, Tyler is learning to connect and to belong,” Fournier concludes in his story. “And thanks to the project she forced upon on us, I see that progress firsthand. Tyler will be a happy, thriving adult. I might even have helped. Being with him, accepting him, watching him overcome his fears, and seeing him through the forgiving eyes of others—this is my field of dreams. I don’t need to “have a catch” with Tyler to be a good father; I simply need to let him be.”