Yep, that’s right. I actually remember a couple of things from when I was in preschool, at which time I was 3-4 years old. Of course, my existing memories of preschool are extremely vague and few in number. Nonetheless, many of the experiences that I can recall seem to indicate my Asperger Syndrome pretty well, and they sort of set a benchmark for what life was going to be like for me throughout the years that followed.
One of the very first memories that comes to mind when I think of my preschool years is the time when one of the teachers got really impatient with me while trying to help me in the bathroom. You know how 3 or 4 years is usually the age where many kids start learning how to properly use the toilet? Well I guess that I may have been having a bit of trouble in certain areas. I cannot remember what exactly I was doing wrong or why the teacher became so frustrated with me. All I know is that I was trying to use a toilet or urinal, while the rest of the class was watching a video I believe, and at one point she grabbed my pants and loudly whispered something along the lines of “Pull your pants down/up now! Or you’ll miss the rest the video!” My recollection is, again, tremendously vague and there are probably a lot of details that I’m missing. Regardless, that moment seemed to really stick with me for one reason or another, and I distinctly remember being very intimated and scared by the teacher. Consequently, whenever an adult angrily scolded me for my apparent misbehavior, I would often think back to this incident with the preschool teacher.
Another incident from preschool that frequently pops up in my memory is when I randomly hugged some boy in my class. We were all outside picking flowers and doing other stuff, and out of nowhere, for some reason that I have no recollection of, I gave one of the other kids this big hug from behind. As you might expect, the other boy didn’t enjoy this sudden physical display of affection and immediately told me to stop. Fortunately, I complied, and I believe not much else happened afterward. The best guess I can come up with as to why I did that is because I had been watching too much Sesame Street or Barney the Dinosaur (y’know, the shows that have unrealistic expectations of how young children behave). I can safely say that this was not the only time in preschool that I acted in ways that the other kids found weird or annoying. I think that in most cases I was imitating something I saw on television or a movie; completely lost in my own world and oblivious to what I was really doing (see “Imaginary Play” for a fuller discussion of this issue).
I can also hazily remember spending time with this one teacher, separately from the other kids, to engage in some special activities. Once again, I do not recall any of the specific things I did with this teacher, but I believe it was some sort of physical play therapy, designed to help me with my motor skills and coordination. I say this because I remember these sessions being heavily physical and focused entirely on my body – as if I were exercising. The fact that the teacher had me do these activities apart from the other kids also gives me a pretty good idea of what its purpose was. Whether or not this purpose was successfully fulfilled at the time, I could not tell you.
One last memory from preschool that I’d like to share is much more positive. In fact, it might be one the happiest experiences from my preschool years. At home I had this CD-ROM program that was a collection of kids games based on the Disney film, Aladdin. One of the games in it was a simple coloring book thing: where you have a pre-drawn image associated with the film, and you get to color it in however you please. One day, perhaps on the encouragement of one of my parents, I printed out a bunch colored-in pictures from the program and brought them to class to give out to the other kids. The teachers seemed pretty happy with what I had brought in, and made each of the children got a picture. I think we even got to watch some of the film itself, Aladdin, to celebrate. This was probably one of the very few times in preschool where it seemed that the teachers were pleased with me and the other students (sort of) respected me. I felt immensely proud for it!
I think that the reason why each of these moments really stick out in my memory is because they had something to do with the fact that I was “different”, or had difficulties that weren’t present in the other kids. I didn’t fully understand what was going on at the time, of course, but those incidents possibly gave me some sense that there was something “wrong” with me; something about me that was “special”. This would become increasingly clear to me in later years, from Kindergarten onwards. There are still times when I think back on those preschool memories, reminiscing how difficult it was for me even back then to be “normal” and fit in with everyone else. I believe that many others with Aspergers and other autism-related disorders might have similar memories of their early years.