Mother's Asperger's poem strikes a chord on social media

By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News family reporter

image captionTristan and Sophie: "His humour makes me laugh every day"

In an emotional moment after a couple of very difficult days during the school holidays, Dr Sophie Billington penned a poem about her son Tristan, who has Asperger's syndrome.

"He is wired differently, To you and me, This child of mine," it begins and goes on to explain that, while he can't tie his shoelaces at the age of 11, he understands nanotechnology and genome editing technology.

"He is kind, He is generous But the world judges, Sees only the outbursts and over-reactions."

It was after a series of such outbursts, caused by the change in routine brought about by the holidays, that Sophie found release in putting pen to paper.

She posted the poem (see below) on her Facebook page and was amazed at the response from friends - one even asked to use it to help her in her work training special educational needs teachers.

Encouraged to publish the verse more widely, she shared it on the BBC's Family & Education Facebook pages, saying: "For anyone trying to parent the minefield that is a child with special needs, I penned this in a emotional moment."

media captionTristan has Asperger's syndrome and his mother penned a poem about his life.

"I wrote the poem through frustration and despair really. I was worn-out, emotional and frustrated. It came from the heart - I literally wrote it out of frustration," says Sophie.

"And I was wondering how other parents with children with Asperger's syndrome felt and realising that perhaps we all need to share our stories."

Sophie, a British doctor who now lives in South Africa, says she hopes the poem will raise awareness about the realities of raising a child with Asperger's.

"I'm hoping that the poem will hope to show the world, and teachers in particular, what it's like to parent a child with Asperger's syndrome and the frustrations that the parents of these children have on a daily basis.

"My message is... to not look at a child that they would consider is over-reacting but stop and think perhaps that mother actually needs you to help, not judge."

image captionTristan loves reading the periodic table

Sophie says parenting a child at the higher end of the autistic spectrum presents its own unique challenges, because the child's needs are not easily recognisable.

"Their behaviour can be very immature, slightly odd and they can have major outbursts.

"People tend to look on and see this older child behaving in a way that looks younger and they think, 'It's bad parenting,' and that the parent should be telling the child off - because they think the child looks 'normal'.

"But if you tell them, if you say they have Asperger's syndrome, they tend to be kinder."

Asperger's syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder and affects an individual's social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.

Here is Sophie's poem in full:

This Child of Mine (who hates being called boy or kid!)

He is wired differently

To you and me,

This child of mine.

He doesn't like loud noises

Or dark spaces

Or strangers touching his head.

His brain can see in an instant the pattern,

The layout,

The solution to a puzzle.

He can tell you every gun invented.

The year,

The range,

The calibre.

But he cannot tie his shoelaces at 11.

He reads the periodic table for pleasure.

Loves fusion

And nanotechnology

And Crispr

But he cannot tell the time from a clock face.

He is different this child of mine.

Has no filters,

Speaks his mind,

Has no pause button

But he hugs me and tells me he loves me every day.

He has triggers this child of mine,

Open-mouthed chewing,

Enclosed spaces,

Broken routines

But he'll rescue drowning insects every time.

He is different this child of mine,

A challenge,

A frustration,

A despair

But his humour makes me laugh every day.

He is different this child of mine,

He is loving,

He is kind,

He is generous

But the world judges,

Sees only the outbursts and over-reactions.

He is wired differently this child of mine,

And my role is to guide him,

Soothe him,

Give him tools

To negotiate this confusing world of emotion he fails to grasp.

He is different this child of mine,

His name is Tristan,

Not boy,

Not kid.

I hope that his road through life will be one of kindness and understanding.

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