At first, his mother thought it must be a joke, another cruel trick being played on her son Chris by his classmates at school.
After all, Marisa Bartz had heard for years about her son being teased because he has Asperger’s syndrome — a form of autism.
Last week, Chris sent his mother a text message saying he’d been nominated for homecoming court.
“Being a mom, my initial reaction was wanting to protect him, but I also wanted him to be happy,” Marisa Bartz said.
Chris was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at age 8.
According to the UC Davis MIND Institute, children with Asperger’s often have difficulty with social interaction and communication.
They may seem physically clumsy and obsessed with particular subjects, such as video games, computers or maps.
In Chris’ case, he was fascinated by trains, and later, by miniature soldiers. He was terrified by crowds and strangers.
“One of the things I did to calm me down is, I walk around and kind of make noises. I kind of think to myself that I’m in a different place,” said Chris, while seated in his bedroom at a table covered with tiny, painted British soldiers.
Marisa Bartz said she was relieved when she learned that the nomination had come from Chris’ friend and next-door neighbor Jacob Rossbo.
“I just back him up,” said Rossbo, who is also a senior at Antelope High. “I don’t like people who tease and talk crap behind people’s back. That just bugs me.”
Chris is one of about 20 students who have been nominated for homecoming court.
Voting begins Friday and continues through next Tuesday.
The winners will be announced at a rally prior to the varsity football game on Oct. 5.
To remain eligible for voting, nominees have to keep good grades, dress up in goofy clothing for school spirit days and jump and shout at pep rallies.
Marisa Bartz said the good grades are not an issue for Chris, but attracting attention to himself in public will be a challenge.
“Standing in front of stage of people kind of makes me a little nervous,” Chris said.
However, Bartz said her son has made great progress from the days when he would run wildly out of school assemblies.
She credits Chris’ friends and a nurturing environment at school and on sports teams.
And what if he doesn’t win?
Chris said he’s thought about that.
“It’s a great honor just to be nominated,” he said.
- Special Edition – Aspergers (education.com)