This I Believe

Kallee - Waterford, Michigan
Entered on October 26, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: disability
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I believe that my son is different for a reason.

I was teaching in an elementary school years ago in which a program for autistic children was housed. I remember one of my students had severe autism. He really couldn’t do much and had his own personal paraprofessional. I felt sorry for him, but at the same time thought that he was somewhat of a distraction for the other students in the classroom, that he was just taking up space. I also thought it was unfair that this child had someone by his side all day so he could function in school. I thought that the parents should just keep him home, or send him to a special school. I knew that his mother was quite an advocate for her son and it annoyed me that she wanted him to be in a “normal” classroom, yet receive all of these special services.

Brendan was born in November of 2000. He was our first child and he became our world. We started to realize that he wasn’t like other children when he was about two-and-a half years old. He was fascinated by clocks, vacuums, and anything that spun. He would get upset if I took a different route to the grocery store or grandma’s house. The air conditioner on the side of our house was his best friend; he always wanted to go see “A.C.”. When we went to the zoo, he wanted to look at the heating and cooling units, not the animals.

As he got older, he had difficulty socializing with other kids, seemed to have a lot of anxiety, and had trouble with his fine motor skills. He could also get very angry and aggressive very quickly. We realized how different Brendan truly was as our second child grew and developed, but we didn’t know what to do about it.

We were originally told by a psychologist that Brendan had Asperger’s Syndrome. Other experts mentioned autism and PDD. We began researching and learning about Asperger’s and autism. It was a very confusing, frustrating, and painful time in my life. I didn’t know where to turn to get help or the answers I needed about my son. One day I stumbled upon the website of a local autism organization. The president happened to be the mother of the autistic boy from the elementary school. How ironic that I found myself going to her for help with my son!

After years of testing I think we finally have an accurate diagnosis for Brendan. He has a neurological disorder, specifically a mood impairment, and PDD. He is on medication and with some therapy he (we) will be just fine.

I am a more compassionate, tolerant person because of my son. I am a better teacher, too. He has taught me that even though people are different they are still beautiful and deserve the same opportunities as the rest of us. Life will be hard for Brendan, and while I wish he was “normal”, I have learned a very valuable lesson because he isn’t.