RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
Time now for StoryCorps. StoryCorps is the oral history project collecting stories around the country. It gives friends and family members the chance to interview each other about their lives.
Today, a conversation between 12-year-old Joshua Littman and his mother Sarah. Joshua was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism, when he was five. Soon after, his family moved from their home in England to the U.S. Joshua is now a 7th grade honor student, but he has a tough time socially. His mom, Sarah, describes children with Asperger's as born without social genes. They can come across as eccentric and have obsessions. For Joshua, it's animals. When Joshua and Sarah came to StoryCorps, it was a chance for Joshua to interview his mom and unlike most participants who rely on questions provided, Joshua created his own.
JOSHUA LITTMAN: From a scale of one to ten, do you think your life would be different without animals?
SARAH LITTMAN: I think it would be an eight without animals because they add so much pleasure to life.
LITTMAN: How else do you think your life would be different without them?
LITTMAN: I could do without things like cockroaches and snakes.
LITTMAN: Well, I'm okay with snakes as long as they're not venomous or can constrict you or anything.
LITTMAN: I'm not a big snake person.
LITTMAN: But cockroach is just the insect we love to hate.
LITTMAN: Yeah, it really is.
LITTMAN: Have you ever felt like life is hopeless?
LITTMAN: Uh, when I was a teenager I was very depressed and I think that can be quite common with teenagers who think a lot, you know, when they're perceptive.
LITTMAN: Am I like that?
LITTMAN: You are very much like that.
LITTMAN: Do you have any mortal enemies?
LITTMAN: I would say my worst enemy is sometimes myself, but I don't think I have any mortal enemies.
LITTMAN: You don't have a [censored]?
LITTMAN: No, I don't. I'm sure probably when I was in middle school there were people that I felt about the way you feel about him, but to be honest, I don't really remember well enough.
LITTMAN: Have you ever lied to me?
LITTMAN: Mmm, I probably have, but I try not to lie to you even though sometimes the questions you ask make me uncomfortable.
LITTMAN: Like when we go on our walks, some of the questions I might ask?
LITTMAN: Yeah, but you know what, I feel it's really special that you and I can have those kind of talks, even if sometimes I feel myself blushing a little bit.
LITTMAN: Have you ever thought you couldn't cope with having a child?
LITTMAN: (Laughs) I remember when you were a baby, you had really bad colic so you would just cry and cry and ...
LITTMAN: What's colic?
LITTMAN: It's when you get this stomachache and all you do is scream for like four hours ...
LITTMAN: Even louder than Amy does?
LITTMAN: You were pretty loud, but Amy's was more high-pitched.
LITTMAN: I think it feels like everyone seems to like Amy more, like she's like the perfect little angel.
LITTMAN: Well, I can understand why you think that people like Amy more and I'm not saying it's because of your Asperger's Syndrome, but being friendly comes easily to Amy whereas I think, for you, it's more difficult but the people who take the time to get to know you love you so much.
LITTMAN: Like Ben or Eric(ph) or Carlos...
LITTMAN: Yeah, and ...
LITTMAN: Like I have better quality friends but less quantity?
LITTMAN: I wouldn't judge the quality, but I think ...
LITTMAN: I mean, like first it was like Amy loved Claudia, then she hated Claudia, she loved Claudia, then she hated Claudia ...
LITTMAN: You know what, part of that's a girl thing, honey. The important thing for you is that you have a few very good friends and, really, that's what you need in life.
LITTMAN: Did I turn out to be the son you wanted when I was born, like did I meet your expectations and...?
LITTMAN: You've exceeded my expectations sweetie, because, you know, sure you have these fantasies of what your child's gonna be like, but you have made me grow so much as a parent because you ...
LITTMAN: Well, I was the one who made you a parent.
LITTMAN: You were the one who made me a parent, that's a good point. But, also because you think differently from, you know, what they tell you in the parenting books, I really had to learn to think out of the box with you and it's made me much more creative as a parent and as a person and I'll always thank you for that.
LITTMAN: And it helped when Amy was born?
LITTMAN: And that helped when Amy was born, but you are just so incredibly special to me and I'm so lucky to have you as my son.
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MONTAGNE: Sarah Littman with her son Joshua. To see Joshua's complete question list or learn how you can participate in StoryCorps and archive your interview at the Library of Congress, visit NPR.org.