July 26, 2011

Boo' ya Moon and Aspergers

Hey diddle diddle
The cat and the fiddle
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed 
to see such a sport 
and the dish 
ran away with the spoon.

Be careful telling a nephew with Aspergers that the “cow jumped over the moon.” Instead of laughing at the absurdity, he'll say, "Don't you know the moon is 221,463 miles from Earth, its furthest point is 251,968 miles away with the average distance being 238,857 miles? So technically speaking Aunt Tatie, a cow cannot jump over the moon.” I suppose the dish running away with the spoon got lost in his moon calculations. 

Speaking of moons, Stephen King wrote about an imaginary refuge called Boo'ya Moon in his novel Lisey's Story. With extraordinary concentration, people could transport themselves to an alternate reality if they needed escape, or privacy, or perhaps rejuvenation. I had just finished reading King's book the summer before my nephew's diagnosis and we were working outside together in the garden as we often do, when I noticed him staring into space. "Where are ya?" I asked, " Are ya smelling flowers on Boo'ya Moon?" He looked towards the figure interrupting his private time which would be me, the Aunt who has more patience than Epsom has salts. (I really need to update my clichés...perhaps something like The Aunt who has more patience than Microsoft has bugs would be more au courant.) 

I ‘tease’ children gently, easing them away from viewing their peculiarities as serious defects of which there is nothing funny and everybody else has none. Having been an odd child myself, it was a revelation discovering what my kids loved about me the most, were my eccentricities---oddities not pathological in nature providing endlessly hilarious material for family reunions. I learned during childhood to take myself lightly which has been my saving grace during a hideous dump-and-run marriage after which the weight packed on like insulation around Alaskan water pipes. If it weren’t for my good-hearted self-deprecation lightening the burden of isolation (not insulation), I might not have found a nephew’s Asperger traits to be endearing. Obviously, other people weren’t fascinated with a boy who visited Boo’ya Moon when they told him to do three chores at once. Giving him one task at a time was fine. Two tasks was pushing it. Three was a Star Trekkian transport to Boo’ya Moon.

I won’t kid ya about visits to Boo’ya Moon being endearing or funny to everyone in his life. It wasn’t. Other people interpreted his blank stare as defiance. As if he were intentionally defying their authority, refusing to “Clean the catbox, empty the trash, and bring the mail in from the mailbox,” because he was a rebel. Or stupid. Too stupid to remember three things when he pondered ideas like ‘perpetual motion’ while the rest of us were stumped over the law of attraction. Or lazy. My nephew has been called lazy, too. If he managed to complete two out of three tasks but not all three, the only reason people could come up with was his characterological indolence, a sin, a fatal flaw---was he evil grab the Holy Water.

People psychologize other people’s behavior which is defined as a fundamental attribution error. That means they explain other people's behavior based on that person’s disposition or personality. (An error we don’t make with ourselves since we tend to view our ‘situation’ as the culprit more than labeling ourselves with personality deficits). In other words, people thought my nephew could not complete the three tasks as ordered because he was stupid, lazy, and/or defiant. He would be so stressed remembering all three things in proper order, that he automatically checked out. Boo’Ya Mooned it. 

One year after giving a name to his stress and anxiety reactions, he was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome on the autism spectrum. When my nephew was undergoing diagnostic tests involving me in the interviews, too, I mentioned his visits to Boo’ya Moon as an answer to one of the psychologist’s questions. My nephew busted up laughing and the clinical psychologist was startled for a few seconds. I feared her next question would be directed at me: “How quickly can YOU could pack your bags for a stay in the mental hospital?!” Instead, she turned to my nephew and asked if he realized how lucky he was to have an Aunt who was comfortable with his occasional visits to Boo’ya Moon. 

Then she posed a joke to see if he would laugh at himself which he did with only minor hesitation. “You are a peach!” she grinned at him and for a second, I feared he would teleport right there in the interview. Then he realized that a peach was a fruit and fruit grew on trees and he couldn’t actually be a fruit so obviously, the clinician was teasing him with an absurdity and wow, wasn’t that funny! Imagine calling a humanoid a peach!

P.S. I wrote about Refrigerator Mothers on the two posts linked below which might be interesting to people dealing with children on the autism spectrum. My nephew is high-functioning so I am not suggesting my methods for coping with Aspergers is a universal. As with all children, knowing them intimately, recognizing their limitations, and connecting with them as a trustworthy parent/nurturer is essential. 

My nephew and his mother moved in with us when he was five years old. I divorced only a few years afterwards. He is almost twenty today.



  1. Boo'ya Moon is one of the bestest places to visit!

    And you are one of the bestest people I know.

    You shine... like the moon :)

  2. I've never heard of this story though I do read to my third graders from Stephen King's book "On Writing." (I leave out the cocaine abuse.)
    I've had numerous students with Aspergers over the years (some diagnosed, other parents in denial).
    I loved stumbling upon the book "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" by Mark Haddon. It's officially a book for young adults, but a fascinating read in that the narrator is "on the spectrum."

  3. This is wonderful. I came under a lot of criticism because given too many tasks I would switch. After integration I am learning to rebel. Aspergers is a different way of thinking. Very cool that you allow the differences as acceptable. I agree with the counselor, your nephew is lucky to have you, so is his mother.

  4. This is so touching. This entry inspires me because we have a son, our only child, who basically was neglected (and worse) by the state adoption agency.

    Our son, now 23, was adopted at three years from the state. We were told that he 'probably was mildly retarded' but they hadn't done a test on him since he was a bit over two. They gave him a pencil and paper then and this child didn't know what to do.

    From 13 months he was in a 'failure to thrive' foster home, and stuck in a crib all day with a tv remote he could use through the crack in the door. There were no activities at all for him. They fed him baby food until we got him at three. He hadn't developed the 'swallow reflex' apparently, and choked easily.

    Of course he was in diapers and still on a bottle.

    The state was no help: his caseworker hadn't seen him until the week of our adoption. Amazing.

    We learned fast that you can't label a child: everyone else did because it satisfied them, but it was wide of the mark of this child..and probably many other children.

    When he was almost 4 we gave him a tiny violin, and he 'wrote' the "Dragon Opera". Painful to listen to, but he demanded our complete attention. When he was 6 he started playing cello, crying loudly when a kid at school put his foot through the only other cello. I was called at work because they couldn't pry him from the remaining (whole) cello. At 7 we bought him a baby grand piano and he burned through two teachers. This was a child who we were told 'would be able to support himself' with a medial job as an adult.

    We never got a complete diagnosis with our son, because we just didn't trust or believe in the evaluations of the state psychologists. As they said: "All state children are delayed and need to go on Ritalin".

    We homeschooled him all through 12 grade, he went to college (technical college) and now is chasing pirates off of Somalia with the USS Bainbridge (a destroyer).

    Life was tough for him, and there is a possibility of some sort of level of Aspergers. We just don't know.

    But I wish we had known people like you. Our questions and issues would have been different...or perhaps our son would have had an easier time.

    All children are marvels of the Universe. It's the adults that stand in their way with half-baked theories and easy judgement.

    Your nephew is so blessed to have you as his aunt.

    Lady Nyo

  5. Thank you everyone for commenting!

    I didn't realize until approving Lady Nyo's recent comment that I hadn't responded to each of you.

    My excuse, should you choose to accept it, is that I was sick and then I went on a vacation and then a whole bunch of family came to visit for more than a week and then we had my parent's 60th wedding anniversary and now I'm pooped just writing it all down.

    It's been a hectic summer.

    I hope to find a morning when I can post a new entry. Maybe some people can write an entry worth reading in thirty minutes (yea, that would be LOUISE!!). I need all day to think about the article---nighttime to dream about the article---and a full afternoon to write it down.

    I kinda love and hate writing to tell you the truth. BUT, I always feel better when the whole ordeal is over. haha!

    Hugs all,

  6. Louise, dear Louise.

    You make me feel like a good woman, even a woman with worth. Thank you for always, always being so supportive!

    You precious Golden Fairy, you!



  7. Hi Jan!

    I'm such a fan of Stephen King, even his made-for-tv-movies that really stink but you watch them anyway 'cuz you love Stephen King and hope he'll show up in a cameo shot somewhere to remind you when you see his face that nobody can have it all.

    I'm grateful God portions out blessings. (LOL)

    I looked up Mark Haddon's book and am extremely interested in reading it. Just because of the insight to be gained viewing life through an Aspie's eyes. Thank you so much for the recommendation.

    AND! Congratulations for getting your comment posted on my blog. Not sure how you fixed the technical glitch but I'm very glad you did.


  8. Hi Ruth,

    My nephew may be blessed to have me as his Aunt but believe me, it's mutual. He has given me a second chance to put my parenting skills to work now that I know a whole lot more than when my children were little. You always wonder if you'd do better with a second chance and guess what? The answer is: Yes.

    I think something our entire world lacks is kindness. Not just kindness to strangers which is much easier than being kind to family members. ha! But also: kindness to ourselves. Treating ourselves with at least as much courtesy as we'd treat others. That may sound backwards though I've discovered the past few years, that most of us are extremely hard on ourselves. We need to stop it.

    Thanks for reading and writing and being so willing to share your life with others.

    Big hugs,

  9. Dear Lady Nyo,

    What a remarkable story! To have enough patience to deal with a child who struggles socially, is a miracle. The love people have for children inspires me.

    It hasn't all been Boo'Ya Moon gardens at our house, though. The real truth is that even Boo'Ya Moon has hidden monsters to be conquered.

    My nephew also has ADHD and that's been a bigger issue than the Asperger's. He has a hard time concentrating when other Aspie's don't. So we agreed to medication which has been LIFE saving for him and he can't bear going even one day without it.

    That is the only medication he takes though he was on much stronger meds when he was assumed to have bipolar. But THAT is a whole nother post................

    Thanks for letting me (us) get to know you a little bit. And please, send your son a hug and tell him how appreciated he is for the work he is doing.


  10. I have known a few people with Aspergers and studied it obsessively a few years ago. It is so interesting and they are so wonderful. I totally get them and think they're ways of reacting to people are cute, funny, and extremely endearing. They naturally feel safe and bond with me because of my over-abundance of empathy. I love them.


    1. Hello DMW,

      How nice to hear from you on my blog! It's been over a year since posting this entry, how time flies, eh?

      We attend an Asperger support group which has been so validating for my nephew. There's a broad age range in the group, from 8 years old to over 60. Each person says what a difference it made in their lives once they had an accurate diagnosis. That's certainly how we feel about my nephew's diagnosis.

      Now we understand him and life is way, way better AND easier!

      Thanks for commenting!



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