Sunday, August 31, 2008

Look at Mr. Addams. He's always developing outside interests.

We have three kids. Our middle child (13) is just about the sweetest girl you could ever meet.

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 Our daughter seemed a little withdrawn, shy and didn't seem to have a lot of friends.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.

20 comments:

Randal Graves said...

You're a swell pop, my man. The cool thing about her particular interest is that since there's a hardcore following, there will always be outlets for it, plus you're in Portland, and you guys get all that neat stuff up that way. :)

Dean Wormer said...

Thanks.

We are lucky out here that way. Very progressive and tons of creativity from comics to music.

Pilar Penobscot said...

Right on. I've got a Pokemon-obsessed daughter, too. There's something out there for everyone.

Don Snabulus said...

20X6!!! I am glad you are all figuring things out. I think #1AnimeFan is way cool and she can't go wrong with such loving parents.

I haven't grokked on anime that much either, but the MiniSnab has read Fruits Basket and a couple others.

Enjoy your long weekend!

FranIAm said...

You are one great dad and all around good man. I knew that already, but this confirms it.

It really made me tear up to hear about how your daughter just about lit up when she was at that convention.

We all need to find what our heart connects to, so glad to know that you were there to help your daughter find her place.

Dean Wormer said...

pilar-

There's something out there for everyone.

That really is true, isn't it?

don-

Have a great labor day yourself.

franiam-

Thank you but I seriously wasn't looking for kudos here. I just wanted to share something that I think had a happy ending. It was absolutely delightful seeing her open up like that.

Aaron said...

#1AnimeFan is a sweetheart. Finding your place in the world is pretty much what it's all about. All will be well.

Liberality said...

what everyone else said--you are a great dad. and that teacher insisting on testing when she suspected something was not quite on, well she is great too.

pissed off patricia said...

Like Fran I have some tears here but they are happy ones, for you and for your daughter.

Having been a shy little girl and always the "new kid" due to our moving around so much, I remember how it felt not to fit in or something. Had my parents been a whole lot more like you, my life as a little girl would have been much nicer and happier to remember.

Dean Wormer said...

liberality-

Thank you. We wrote a letter to the district superintendent about how great that teacher is. She could've focused on other stuff and just ignored what she saw.She went to the mat for our daughter and could've literally saved her life.

Pop-

Thanks. Her mom and me just want her to be happy. Being a teenager sucks enough as it is.

Dean Wormer said...

aaron-

Thanks big guy! I'm beginning to see why anime is so important to her. It's not a bad culture.

Übermilf said...

You just described my daughter.

She's 8 right now.

Swinebread said...

Everybody told me that my birth post was the best they’ve read all year but this post is the best I’ve read this year. It brought a tear to the eye. Its’ so wonderful that there’s a place and a culture that you can go with your daughter that really brings her out into the world. Anime and Manga really have an amazing fanbase and it’s a great thing to be a part of and now you know this!

It also touches my heart because when the spouse and I talked to her about Anime and Manga, brought her a Japanese toy or put in a DVD, we didn’t realize how special it was for her. I thought we were just having a fun conversation with a great kid but now I know it was her favorite thing in the whole world…. And that so cool.


Side note:
Also, another thing to think about is that fact that Manga and Anime saved American comic books, so even if you aren’t into them, we owe them a huge pop culture debt.

Dean Wormer said...

ubermilf-

Then we're BOTH lucky. ;-)

swine-

Shucks. Not even in the same category as your birth post. That was some emotional reading.

To be honest I guess I didn't know how much it meant to her until I saw her there. I knew she loved the stuff but didn't realize she LOVED the stuff.

And you know what? Now I like Anime/ Manga more. You can tell a lot about something by it's fans. Those people at that convention were pretty darned cool. One could do much worse for friends.

Side note of my own- I don't dislike manga it's just never appealed to me as much as American art. I did get to meet Phil Foglio which I thought was cool.

DivaJood said...

That means there is hope for my Elmo-devoted 3-year-old granddaughter.

Really, there is so much creativity in Anime, and that she's found others who are as devoted as she is is terrific. She will have an encouraging community through her teen years, and parents who support it. What more can she hope for?

Jess Wundrun said...

This is the coolest thing I've seen in months!

I used to work at a daycare and had a wonderful friend whose son was slightly off the spectrum from Asperger's. We'd see kids with definite need for intervention and my friend would always go in swinging for them. But just like you, so many others were afraid of offending the parents.

Anyhoo--you. just. rock.

DivaJood said...

I have given you an award. Stop by to pick it up.

mwb said...

Excellent! Being a long time fan, occasional panelist and admin/mod type at a big anime/manga site - I heartily approve.

Dean Wormer said...

diva-

There really is a lot of cretivity there. It seems like such a positive community.

Jess-

Thanks! Back at ya.

Yeah the teacher was afraid of how we'd react. We both have a lot of emotions around this but the biggest one is relief.

diva-

You're too kind! thanks.

mwb-

Cool!

Freida Bee said...

Dean- This is indeed touching because it touches me on a few personal levels. You are a very good dad. I teased about being a Renaissance Fair wannabe a while back, but I know that I would do the same thing regarding WOW for my son if he asked.