At the end of the school year last year we had one of the teachers at her middle school call us up and tell us she was worried about her. Our daughter seemed a little withdrawn, shy and didn't seem to have a lot of friends. This teacher was concerned that there may be a an issue that would cause our daughter to get "lost" as she advanced into high school.
We had always known our daughter was a little behind socially but she's also very smart (an encyclopedic knowledge of Pokemon and anime for instance) and a voracious reader, if a bit disorganized in her studies. Her grades haven't been stellar but her standardized testing has been pretty good. We took her as a bit of an egghead who was sometimes unfocused.
But this teacher's concern forced us to reflect on our daughter and any little clues that there might be something else going on . Long story short- after a series of tests and psychological profiles she was diagnosed with mild Asperger's.
(As an aside let me just say that my wife owe and enormous debt to this public school teacher. She didn't have our daughter in class at the time and met huge resistance from the powers that be and fellow teachers in pushing that our daughter be tested. Because our daughter would sit quietly in the classroom and not cause trouble she wasn't considered someone with a social disorder by a few of the her teachers.)
Reading through the paperwork compiled by the district doctor and the counselors in their diagnosis was both enlightening and heartbreaking. At one point during an interview our daughter asked the doctor "if they could teach her to make friends." That's a gut-punch for a parent.
Going into this school year our daughter is meeting with specialists and learning how to socially interact with her peers. The district has been great in accommodating for this after the initial diagnosis. We are all looking forward to this year
Which brings me to yesterday. For months our daughter has been planning on attending Kumoricon, the local Anime convention in Portland. My wife had to work so I got tapped to escort the little mynx to the festival.
I'm going to be perfectly honest here. I love my daughter but yesterday I really didn't want to go to this thing. I had a hellish week at work and personally am not a huge fan of that particular style of animation. But I sucked it up like a good dad and off we went.
I'll do a little report with some more pics sometime later but let me just say that the convention was absolutely wonderful. There were costumes galore from Star Wars to Disney to Sailor Moon. The whole thing had a circus atmosphere that was infectious. I have never been around a more joyous group of people in my life. Everywhere you went people were breaking into song or dance. The convention-goers took over the park across from the hotel and it turned into one big anime party. These guys are just happy to be alive.
But what really made the day worth it, what really touched my heart was how my daughter (Now "#1Animefan" by her convention badge) took the whole day in. She was walking on air from the minute we parked the car. She danced (danced!) the Carmelldansen, chatted with other friendly people that shared her interest in anime, played Red Rover with a group of Pikachus and pretty much went crazy with fun.
For the first time in a long time (maybe her life?) she wasn't the odd man out. She had met 10,000 other "#1Animefans." She was in her element. She was happy. She was with friends.
She's not alone and that means the world to her and to her parents. Everythings going to be fine.