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by Inis Steno

I called him my tiny professor.  He would come in from outside with his little pockets packed full of sand, go into his room and separate out the tiny stones by color…Hell, I had never paid enough attention to sand to even realize there was a difference.   I just thought sand was beige.  We set him up with a bucket for the sand and several plastic plates to handle the various colors.  Turns out there are about eight.  We even bought a magnifying glass and a cool hat like the guy off of Jurassic Park for the professor to aid in his archeological discoveries.  A genius I thought.  I had sired a genius…

My name is Bill – I have a six year old son named Bradley who was diagnosed with Aspergers approximately two years ago. I am married and we have another child Luke, who is five and who has been diagnosed as a normal bratty five-year old.  Luke is the one who made me realize that something wasn’t quite right.  Looking back, I was just in denial as all the signs were there.  Bradley rarely spoke, and when he did, it was if he talked at me, not to me… he never cried… never laughed…  Luke…well he just never shut up and seemed to be auditioning for his own sitcom on a daily basis.  There were times Bradley was overly-clumsy…I would joke with my wife that he must have got his balance from her side of the family.

I first heard about Asperger’s Syndrome when Bradley was diagnosed – We were told that Aspergers fell under an umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Children with this 'intellectual disability' find it difficult to understand social skills, often misunderstand the use of language and can be considered ‘obsessive’, focusing on one particular area of interest…she would run more tests.

A month later, on our second trip to the specialist, I held out hope.  I too had become obsessed, obsessed with finding out all I could about this….thing my son had.  In those four weeks I read thousands of pages information.  I learned that many people diagnosed with Aspergers are generally intelligent, intense and self-focused individuals who usually find success in a career that requires enormous amounts of attention to detail. Bill Gates, Albert Einstein were said to have suffered from this…affliction.  One story talked of a day when Einstein actually showed up to work one day without his pants as he was so focused on his work…

The hope was quickly dashed as I listened to the words from the doctor’s mouth… in a politically correct world the broad term developmental delay has become an increasingly preferred synonym to…well

“Bradley is on the lower end of those with Aspergers… he is developmentally delayed…”

This woman was telling me…my son was a retard…she just didn’t have the balls to say it.

In high school and college I had been a pretty good athlete.  I played baseball at Rice in the late 80’s.  I was a fierce competitor and I took this as a challenge.   As if it were a victory I could actually win.   I set about trying to fix him.  Most of the advice I came across was immediately rejected…


“For me it’s all about acceptance. Accepting your child where he or she is, and you might not like it, and it may not be easy to do — it wasn’t easy for me. But once I did accept him for exactly for he is and who he was, it completely changed everything.”

It all echoed of something a quitter would say. 

Hell, one father traveled to Mongolia to ride horses to fix his kid.  It sure didn’t sound like he was giving up.

People keep telling me that I am a great help to Bradley but I have yet to see it – It is hard to be a good example to someone if you (a) – don’t understand what is going on – and (b) – keep getting frustrated that you can’t connect with your son. My mother jokes with me that Bradley is a dream compared to how I was.   But this isn’t funny.  

Within a short amount of time, the tiny professors obsession with sand quickly went from “me being thrilled I had the next Indiana Jones on my hands”… to embarrassment and anger.