The Devil is in the Details

One of the first things I learned about Asperger’s was that kids who have it generally see and remember details that other people miss. That’s a polite way of saying they zero in on completely irrelevant facts. They are human databases of totally useless information.

And they often miss the big picture. Justin is famous for missing the forest for the trees. A few years ago I repainted Brayden’s room while Justin was away at summer camp. The walls changed from yellow to blue — a dramatic difference. When Justin came home, he immediately noticed the 3×3 sticker of a new Pokemon character on Brayden’s dresser, but failed to pick up on the fact that the walls were a different color. Classic.

And while I know that hyperfocusing on details can be a useful skill, it can also be a huge pain in the butt. Years ago, when someone would ask him what he did on the weekend (just making small talk), he would say, “Jack came over at 1:26 pm on Saturday the 13th and we played until 3:42.” It took months of therapy to get him to understand that yes, everything he said was true, but that was way more detail than anyone wanted to hear.

It’s been a battle at school, too. Last year he was supposed to make a personal timeline of important events in his life — things like when his brother was born, when he started school, when he went to Disneyland, etc. He had all that — but he also noted the “birthdates” of 18 of his favorite Skylander characters. (We could argue about the definition of “important events in his life”, but that timeline was so full of what I would call irrelevant info that you could hardly read any of it. Ugh.)

Things are getting better, though. This year he was given a blank map of Canada and was told to label and color the provinces, territories and capital cities. He did all that — but he also added a couple dozen other cities, labelled every waterway, and even filled in the names of the bordering U.S. states and their capitals. It was still way too much detail, but at least it was on topic. I call that progress.

Now to see what his teacher calls it…