Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Schilling Talks About Son's Asperger's

The wife of former baseball star Curt Schilling has written a book about raising a child with Asperger's syndrome, WCVB-TV in Boston reported.

Schilling won three World Series wins in 23 years in major league baseball, but that was nothing compared to the daily challenges he and his wife, Shonda, faced with one of their four children.

Shonda's new book is called "The Best Kind of Different," about her 10-year-old son Grant, who has the high-functioning form of autism. Grant loves his pets, the station said. There's Griffin, the bird, and his friendly pug, Georgia.

Shonda Schilling said that a lot of kids with Asperger's have trouble looking people in the eye, but that's not the case for Grant. His unique behavior is quite the opposite. Grant doesn't understand appropriate contact behavior in social settings. In other words, he is not able to understand people's boundaries.

That's just one symptom. Another is having sensory issues.

"If he would cry, I could never understand," said Shonda. "He would drop to the floor, and I would go to try and hug him, and you couldn't touch him. I just felt so defeated, sitting there going, 'What do I do?'"

Not only did Grant not behave like his other three brothers and sister, his parents said he could be unusually difficult and disruptive.

"He was getting punished, verbally punished and yelled at, and scolded and timed out," said Curt Schilling. "And, in his mind, 'Why am I getting punished? I'm just being myself.'"

Finally, in the summer of 2007, at the age of almost 8, Grant was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome.

For Shonda and Curt, there was some relief that now they had a name and an explanation for why Grant behaved the way he did. But she also admits, as a mother, there was a tremendous sense of guilt.

"How did I not see it? How did I not notice this earlier? And how did I yell at a child, ever that was never his fault?"

The guilt, the anguish and the journey the Schilling family has taken is chronicled in Shonda's book. The words flowed from her heart, she said.

"It was very therapeutic for me to be able to say the things I've been feeling and put them down on paper."

In chapter after chapter, those feelings were eye opening for the man she'd been married to for nearly 18 years. Curt said that was the hardest part for him about reading his wife's book.

"I didn't realize how alone she was during the years Grant was growing up and I was playing. It made me look like a deadbeat dad in a sense, like I didn't want to participate, or I didn't have the desire to participate, and I always looked at it as I never had an option. I did what I did and I was committed to doing what I was doing because that's the only way I knew how. One of the things you understand about Asperger's is, routine is king. They love routine, they love consistency, and I was never routinely, consistently in his life," Curt said.

Curt's absence, Grant's Asperger's, three other children with ADHD, including one of them with an eating disorder, and Shonda's own skin cancer scare drove her into depression and the couple into therapy.

"Part of the strength of our marriage," said Curt, was, "we've always agreed, leaving was never an option."

But leaving baseball was an option. The ace pitcher said he could pitch again after his shoulder surgery in June 2008 but, he said, he instantly realized he never wanted to throw another major league ball again.

"I was so tired of saying, 'I love you, congratulations, happy birthday, you're punished, good night, you're in time out,' over the phone. I'd spent our entire marriage and my kid's entire lives, nine months a year, doing that. And so it was easy and from the day I made the decision, I have not regretted a second of it. I haven't missed any of it."

Shonda was certainly ready for him to quit, too.

"Our kids are happier than they've ever been. Baseball was fun, but this is the life they have always wanted," she said.

As good as life is these days, there will always be challenges, especially with Grant. There is no cure for Asperger's Syndrome. Each week, things will change, there will be new skills they all have to learn, but at the end of the day, there is just love for their son.

Shonda and Curt both said they would not change a single thing for the path they have been on and the lessons they have learned.

On the Web:

Asperger's Syndrome website

Asperger's Syndrome on the Mayo Clinic website

Asperger's Syndrome on

WCVB-TV, Boston;; The Best Kind of Different.

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