Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

My son is an extraordinary little boy. I would hope that every mother would say the same about her own kids. My son is extraordinary in my eyes because he is tough, he’s a critical thinker, and he’s amazingly talented. He is also not your typical 11 year old boy. In fact, on the weird meter, from the perspective of his teachers and peers, he probably sets it off more than most.

He was born with a cataract in his left eye and had lens replacement surgery at 18 months old. Now he has to wear glasses with a heavy, bifocal lens for his left eye.

At age 2-1/2 he began having seizures and has since been on seizure medicine that makes him occasionally tired and often quite dizzy.

He has a sensory integration disorder that causes him to have difficulty with everything from fine motor skills (he will not wear shoes with shoelaces or pants that have to be buttoned or zipped) to depth perception.

Since before he was a year old, he has been a drummer. He’s rather good, but he often finds himself lost in his own world, drumming and singing and focusing exclusively on songs. He also plans on being a rock star and is growing his hair long. He’s obsessively interested in music of all kinds and can almost always identify the song within a few notes (where’s Name That Tune now?!) as well as tell you who sings it, what album it was on, when it came out, and how long it is to the second.

He learned every country and its capital before kindergarten, and planned a world trip complete with hotels and activities that would take us four years and more than $200,000 to complete – which he plans to pay for with the money he makes from being a rock star.

He is rigid about schedules and rules and cannot stand chaos (especially things like pep assemblies).

We’ve recently learned that many of our son’s challenges can be directly attributed to his recently diagnosed Asperger’s syndrome.

My son is different. But then, we’ve raised him to be. We celebrate individuality. We like having kids who explore their own minds, thoughts, and desires without feeling judged. But we sure do wish there was a little more understanding and a little less judgment and condemnation. So here’s my open letter to all the kids, teachers, parents, and grocery shoppers who would rather give my son a strange glance, call him names, or avoid contact than embrace him for the amazing person he is:

To Whom It May Concern:
Our son has Asperger’s Syndrome. The basics of this challenge are:
difficulties with eye contact, facial expressions, and social gestures; poor peer relationships; lack of spontaneous sharing with others; lack of social or emotional give-and-take; preoccupation with certain interests and subjects; inflexible routines or rituals; repetitive movements.
Associated with the Asperger’s Syndrome, Parker suffers from sensory integration issues. These issues make it more difficult for him to keep his balance. He falls down, he gets dizzy, and he sometimes feels uncoordinated.
Just because he sometimes cannot express the way he is feeling in terms you understand doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel. Just because he’s different doesn’t mean he is a troublemaker. Just because he’s different doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to be liked, befriended, included, and accepted for who he is.
Our son is NOT the one who needs to change.

If a profound gulf separates my neighbor’s belief from mine,

there is always the golden bridge of tolerance

– Anonymous