My son Caleb is an amazing, smart, funny, awesome, fun-loving kid who just happens to have Aspergers Syndrome, and has now realized he has the ability to change people. It started with a grade 4 class speech project that he was not at all happy about having to do – but he did do it – and you can view it at the end of this post….
But I will go back to the beginning… Caleb was first diagnosed with Aspergers by a team of doctors almost 4 years ago after going through a misdiagnosis, constant bullying, many meetings with the school begging for assistance for him and getting nothing, not to mention all of the observations and notes done by myself and the help from his teacher who suspected something unique about Caleb in Senior Kindergarten.
Caleb has always been a unique, exceptional boy, and he has had to overcome so many challenges in his 9 short years of life thus far. From being misunderstood by his classmates and many adults to having to deal with me becoming a single parent to him and his 6 year old brother, to being treated as if he were a bad child by so many because they never understood what his Aspergers really meant.
But his biggest challenge has always been the way he has been bullied at school. We would have had constant issues with his school over each of the different times he would be picked on, teased, hit, and finally retaliate against the bullies. Caleb would constantly end up in trouble at school and be the one blamed for “acting out”. The school would try and blame his Caleb’s behavior on his Dad leaving, or not wanting to do his work, but never take responsibility for the other kids doing things to him. Not even teachers would believe him when he tried talking to them about what was happening on the school yard. He gave up. He knew that there was no point in trying when he was only going to get blamed in the end.
After we finally got his diagnosis, we had hoped that things would change. He would finally qualify for an Eeducational Assistant and he would get more of the one-on-one assistance that he required to get through his school days, but it didn’t happen that way at all. There was an EA assigned to his class each year since his diagnosis but not for the direct help for him and the problems kept going on. Kids would still pick on him, but over the years they got a little more wise and started doing it when they knew no one was watching, thus starting a reaction with Caleb that would get him caught for retaliating. Caleb would meltdown and start acting out, which in turn made the kids angry at him.
Caleb has always tried to be a friendly kid, but sadly couldn’t differentiate who was actually his friend. He would come home every day and talk about his “best friend” but never truly understood the concept. Kids would make him think they were his friend and he would justify why they were calling him names like “Wa-leb” because that was his nickname he said, not them being mean to him. Not understanding that it was their way of insulting him and him not react like he usually did and get them in trouble.
Unfortunately, Caleb’s “bullying” issues did not stop in the classroom. Last year Caleb really wanted to attempt hockey. Because of his major gross motor skill issues I was a little worried how he would make out, but seeing that we have a “don’t EVER let anyone tell you you can’t do something” motto in our home, I let him give it a shot. I made sure that all of the hockey coaches on his team knew that he has Aspergers and has many difficulties, but he would always try his hardest. At first the coaches seemed fine with it, and then it soon changed. Caleb was mistreated by the coaches and the team for a long period. I fought for my son’s rights for months, and after getting nowhere Caleb and I both thought it was time to quit playing. He could see what the coaches were doing was wrong and felt like he wasn’t being treated fairly. Trying to explain to Caleb that this world is not a fair place and he will have to fight a little bit harder because of his challenges is not an easy thing to have to do, and trying to explain that bullying doesn’t stop at children – but that many adults can me mean when they don’t understand a child with challenges is even harder!
This past January, Caleb was made to face a great difficulty of speaking in front of his peers in school when speeches came. It was his first year with having to do them and was terrified! As many Aspergers kids do, he stressed over the hard decision of picking his topic and wanted to make sure he picked the right one. After narrowing it down to two topics and a sleepless night he decided with great confidence it would be about Aspergers Syndrome, something he knew lots about. He never thought that something that he was so afraid of doing would become something as amazing as him slowly teaching the world what it’s like to have Aspergers.
Caleb had no idea the impact he would have on so many with his speech. At first it was just something he had to do for school, but then he realized how many people he was educating and it made him feel good. He is a huge fan of YouTube and it was Caleb’s idea to put his video up for the whole world to see. He set a goal when we put it on YouTube of 1,000 people watching him, and with great support from @ParentingSPD (Hartley’s Life with 3 Boys) on Twitter; he reached his goal within a night. He was amazed and overwhelmed with happiness with all the comments people would leave for him, and at that point realized that his speech was teaching thousands all over the world. Caleb’s speech has since been featured on two different web sites, and used as a teaching tool in a Social Services course at Georgian College in Ontario, Canada and his numbers on YouTube are still on the rise. Caleb has set a new goal for himself, 10,000 views, and I am sure he can get there in time.
I am proud of Caleb in more ways than I can count, and his Aspergers is part of who he is and will always be. We have our challenges every day, but we work with them and accept them. Caleb has done a wonderful thing with his speech, he has conquered a fear, helped kids and adults to understand him better and will continue teaching people what it is like to have Aspergers Syndrome, and I will support him the entire way.
I leave you with a quote that sums up Caleb, the love I feel for him and the pride that keeps on growing as he teaches the world, one view at a time…..
“Autism to me, says that I accept my child wholly. I celebrate his differences and his quirky-ness. I advocate diversity. I try to empower him. I am proud of his successes, no matter how small they seem. I hope he holds onto the compassion he has in his heart into adulthood. I do not think he needs “fixing”. I am proud that he is my son, and sometimes I am humbled by that very same thought.”