The Boy Who Would Be King
While I don’t speak for all Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) parents, I think most know how difficult it is for people with ASD. A “normal” person’s brain can filter out ambient noises and visual inputs which allow us to focus on a task - like having a conversation in a crowded room. People with ASD may not have these filters, and as a result, they don’t think, or feel like the rest of us. Often times, they have to train themselves to simply ‘fit’ into our world. Something as simple as reading facial expressions, can be confusing for someone on the spectrum, so Ian playing football is quite frankly amazing!
With a child of my own on the Autism spectrum, I couldn’t help myself. I became emotionally involved in the next several weeks of Ian’s story. I experienced through him, things that I could never expect my own son to accomplish.
Re-wind: After meeting Ian, I was speaking to another Lamphere student and that’s when I learned Ian has Asperger’s, and that he was running for homecoming king. The student thought he may be a shoe in to win, and told me if he did, he was going to give the crown to Ian. He and the other candidates for king were actually campaigning for Ian instead of themselves which in my opinion, really speaks to the quality of our Lamphere students, and a system that allows these kinds of thoughts to thrive.
Fast forward: The homecoming game - Lamphere is leading going into halftime. The Homecoming floats drive by, the Homecoming court walks down the 50-yard line, taking their places on the track. Tony, the announcer booms through the loud speakers “…and your Lamphere High School 2017 homecoming king is …… Ian Parker” and the crowd goes wild. I had goosebumps as I feel the emotion of the event. Ian had won! The cheers roared, the crown delivered, and Ian bowed in thanks.
The Boy Who Would Be King
Ian is a senior at Lamphere High School, a small district in the city of Madison Heights, Michigan. I met Ian at a shoot set up for the football seniors. At first Ian seemed like all the other players that came out for the shoot, but slowly I started to notice something a little bit different about him. He was just a bit stiff when I tried to pose him, and took my words literally… it was later that I would learn Ian has Asperger’s Syndrome.
So, Ian is on the football team. Not for posterity, or some feel good twitter story. Ian earned his place on the team. I want to take a moment and put this in perspective, getting on that team, on his own is HUGE for an ASD kid, and a tremendous accomplishment. Not only did he make the team, and played regularly, but he wanted to play. I can only imagine the amount of focus and determination Ian has, to play a game that the rest of us take for granted.
This would not be the end of King Ian’s magical night. Later in the game, Lamphere had the ball and low and behold marching out was #57, the homecoming King, Ian was on the field. Ian plays defense, so this was a bit of a surprise. With the help of his teammates, Ian scored the only touchdown of his football career. Again, this was not a ‘feel good’ let the special kid run by for sympathy touchdown. No, no… this was a gritty, red zone, hard fought, had to earn it touchdown. It was awesome!
Afterward, He told his mom. “Look, I’m normal.” But we all know Ian is not normal, he is extraordinary, determined, and inspiring.
P.S. I want to give a little shout out to you, the people of Lamphere. Teachers, students, coaches, and parents. You, the people that surround Ian didn’t say “No you can’t, because…” you said, “Yes you can, in spite of….” Good people bring out the good in people. I love this community.