10,000 hours: Trains, Ships, and Asperger’s
It’ s really only been within the last 5 years that I feel I fully understand Asperger’s. Spotting my Aspies has become easier and easier over the years, and I owe a great deal of that “train spotting” to my Dad. My dad passed away several years ago, and getting back home can be difficult. My Dad was an Aspie, mild, but Aspie still. He managed to beat polio and work himself through college despite growing up in poverty through the Depression. He also earned a Masters in engineering and was a Master Ship Builder with his ships in museums and privates homes across the East Coast.
Not too long ago I went home for a visit to my hometown. My dad helped to start a model train club in Kinston, NC (Kinston Arts Council in North Carolina ). Trains are a common interest with Aspies. My earliest memories of my dad were his building train sets, models, etc. We once had a garage bay filled with an amazing display. During my visit, I was able to take my kids to the museum and share with them his 10,000 hour talent. He was truly the best in the world at models and basically anything upon which he set his mind. To some degree, I am jealous of that hyperfocus.
Amazing talents and gifts are given to our Aspies. And sometimes that gift and talent can come at the expense of social relationships, grades, connections with children, and marriages. My dad cared a great deal for me and we connected around models and sci-fi. But in my practice and in my own life, I see many dads moving through life missing time with their younglings because their special interest takes all their attention. That special interest could be work, a hobby, or internet gaming.
So Dear Fathers, as Father’s Day approaches, recognize that there is more out there than trains, Wells Fargo, Engineering, or Microsoft… Stop for a minute, put down your special interest and make your special interest your little neurotypical or Aspie padawan. Give that child 10,000 hours of hyperfocus, and you can never imagine what you will create.
Peace out from Dr. G and enjoy my dad’s trains….