June 15, 2011
By Shonda Schilling
You most likely recognize Curt Schilling as a Major League Baseball All-Star, a former player of the Boston Red Sox and a World Series championship pitcher. But did you know his son has Asperger’s Syndrome?
New York Times best-selling author Shonda Schilling shares an excerpt from her book The Best Kind of Different, which chronicles the story of her son Grant’s struggle with Asperger’s Syndrome and the heartbreaking and ultimately blissful journey she and her husband took to understanding this often misunderstood syndrome. Shonda spends much time and energy speaking publicly about Asperger’s Syndrome and generating awareness for children with autism spectrum disorders. Interested in hearing more? Then join us at the 42nd annual Autism Society National Conference this July 6-9 in Orlando. Read more about the presentation here:
In this excerpt from Chapter 5: The Trouble with ‘Circle Time,’ Schilling describes coming to terms with Grant’s erratic behavior, and facing and appreciating his differences:
“Grant,” I said, trying to hold his gaze, “until you are willing to sit in circle time every day, we’re taking away your Littlest Pet Shop toys.” At the time, he collected these little magnetic toys. He had buckets full of them. He was always collecting tiny little things. Without hesitation, Grant burst into tears. He cried and cried – to the point that you’d think he’d just lost his best friend. It seemed as if he was overreacting, which he did, often. But he was so affected by the loss of those toys that he finally went to circle time.
And yet, at the same time that he struggled with listening to adults at school, he displayed a level of caring and understanding that was far beyond his years. That year in kindergarten, Grant started removing my purse from my shoulder and carrying it for me. He would also open doors for me. I couldn’t understand how this child – who would constantly rebuff me in public – had learned to be so chivalrous. It didn’t make sense. Curt and I had always tried to teach our children good manners, but this was a bit extreme. Finally, I learned that it was because of William.
In kindergarten, Grant palled around with a child named William who had spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and had been in a wheelchair since the age of one. According to his teacher, Grant insisted upon carrying William’s bag and opening doors for William and his wheelchair. That practice had carried over to me.
One day I overhead Grant talking to his aunt Allison while we were dropping him off at school. He pointed at William and told her, “Aunt Allison, that’s my best friend, William. God made him not to walk.’” After Grant got out of the car, Allison was choked up just talking about Grant’s statement.
These moments, as wonderful as they are in retrospect, were the moments that confused me the most as a parent who was trying to understand her child. Before I knew about Asperger’s, before I knew exactly what it was that made Grant different, the thing I kept coming back to was that he seemed like one big youthful, energetic contradiction. He would do something that would make you angry, and in the same breath he would tell you he loved you. This tendency made me refer to Grant as a child who would pinch you while he was hugging you.
School was a perfect example of this. He would struggle listening to adults, and he would fight us every step of the way as we tried to convince him to be more respectful, but then he’d turn around and display a thoughtfulness and caring that no one else his age was able to. Yet for some reason, one never seemed to carry over to the other. He just never knew when to say when, and that obliviousness shifted his behavior from good to bad.
For years before Grant was diagnosed, this never-ending sea of contradictions was a constant source of confusion. The contradictions were what make you think this is just a phase, that somehow the “bad” part or the “odd” part of the contradiction will one day just stop, leaving only the “good” part behind. Isn’t it funny how willing we are to assume that bad behavior is somehow different, but good behavior is normal? When I think back to what things were like before I knew about Asperger’s, my mind goes to those parking lots and airports where I almost lost it. The tears and the screaming, the nights when I couldn’t sleep because of what he’d done in school that day, or what I worried he might do the next. I also think about how often Grant would do something good, something that other kids just didn’t do. The times when he would say a word or a phrase that would show a level of understanding and complexity that exceeded what I myself thought.
In those moments, I was always caught speechless, trying to understand how the same child who just uttered those words could have had a meltdown in the grocery store over pork chops two nights before. It didn’t make sense.
For a limited time, Harper Collins Publishers’ Bookperk.com is offering signed copies of The Best Kind of Different by both Shonda and Curt Schilling. Click here for more information: http://www.bookperk.com/offer/schilling-the-best-kind-of-different-01
Join Shonda and the Autism Society at the 42nd annual Autism Society National Conference! Register here. The Autism Society will have copies of The Best Kind of Different on sale and there will be a book signing!
Topics:Living with Autism, Resources
Please login or register before you comment. Click here to login or register.