American Idol Here We Come

What Jackson did while Hala rode

Clap clap

The pattern repeats over and over again in my living room, as my son plays his video game. Sometimes it’s a clap, sometimes it’s patting his legs in a pattern, sometimes it’s sucking in air, sometimes it’s using his tongue to make a raspberry noise with his lips, sometimes it’s sucking his shirt or blinking or flicking his fingers in yet another pattern.

My son suffers from a mild form of Tourette Syndrome and OCD.

If you didn’t know, you might not notice. However if you spend time with him, you might catch a glimpse.

We’ve always treated it as no big deal in our house, so when casually flipping through tv channels months ago it never occurred to me just how aware my kiddo was of his unique condition.

On a whim I turned on the audition portion of American Idol while my then seven-year-old played Legos on the carpet…half paying attention to the singing on the television.

Then came James Durbin.

Mom! Mom! Did you see that? Did you see that guy? Mom…he has tics. He has a tic like me. Mom…he’s like me!

My son had never seen another person like him. He had never experienced anyone ‘like him’ in school, around town, and certainly not on tv. His eyes were as wide as saucers and he flapped his arms and jumped up and down, as he tends to do when really excited.

Mom, he has a tic and he’s awesome!

With gusto he’s been following James. Rooting for the guy ‘like him’ who ‘rocks.’

I’ve been holding my breath each week, hoping James makes it through to yet another round. Knowing full well my son will crumble with emotion and tears if and when James is voted off. Sensitive. He’s very sensitive. It comes with the territory of these disorders. He loves big and hard and with all he’s got and gets attached very easily.

So you can imagine how excited he is for Wednesday’s show.

Why? Because my little guy and I will be in the audience, and he gets to see his hero in person. The guy like him who rocks. The guy that opened his young eyes to the bigger world of Tourettes and Aspergers and OCD and Autism and all the other disorders that make so many millions of children ‘different.’

My husband and I have talked many times about if and when I should ever blog about this. We always worried that our son would be labeled forever if I said too much. Revealed too much in a world that likes to look down on anyone ‘different.’

But seeing James on American Idol, and my son’s reaction to him, has taught me a lesson too…’different’ isn’t something to hide. Ever. And it’s given my son the courage to talk about his tics, with pride.

So maybe you will see us cheering our hearts out in the audience on Wednesday on your tv. Cheering for the guy that showed my son there is nothing weird or uncool about tics. Showing him that ‘different’ is awesome…and at times, totally rocks.

Good Luck James.


  1. As someone who blogs not only about my own disability, but my sons’ health issues as well, I understand it’s a fine line when telling their stories. There is only so much that is mine to tell. But I also believe that in telling those stories, if we all tell those stories, we’re breaking down walls and making the world an easier place for them to live in. Have a wonderful time! We’re rooting for James at our house too.

  2. Melissa (aka DrSnit) says:

    Sharing stories heals.

    I just shared your site with a friend of mine who has an autistic son who gets upset at his tics and cries but is enrolled in martial arts. Life isn’t always what we expect it to be- but life is what we get – and sharing and healing and shining light is what MATTERS.

    Thank you for being a source of that healing!

  3. Jack? Is different in the sense that he is way more awesome than just about any other person I met last year.

    I am so excited for him — and for the two of you together — that he gets to have this experience. What a great guy he is, and if he gets inspiration from James, I will root for James until the bitter end. Love you, mama. Cannot wait to see your inevitable photo of him there. 🙂

  4. Awww. <3
    How awesome! I've been saying for a few years that "It's all about personalizing the minorities"–if you can introduce people to individuals from minority groups, they'll see that we're all human.
    Thank you for sharing. Enjoy the performance, so much!!!

  5. I think James could win the whole thing… he’s definitely a fan favorite! Enjoy the show – what a great treat that is. James is rumored to be singing Don’t Stop Believin as one of his songs, which will no doubt be fantastic… plus the song is so well known and loved since it got a second life on Glee.

    Have fun!

  6. Different is special as I’m sure you know. Bravo for sharing. Teaching pride in one’s (and others’) differences is tantamount to being a conscientious person. And how cool is it to be in the audience; wow!

  7. Oh I’m so happy for you and for that little guy to get to sit in the audience tonight. I often end up cheering for someone not only for their singing/performing, but also for their *story* and James’ story touched us so deeply. Having a teen with autism and our 12 year old Nick who has some tiny tics we appreciate just what this all means and how truly special it is. We actually brought Nick into the room to show him James on stage so he could see someone with similar behaviors as him. It makes such a difference and Jack should never have to feel embarassed to be different.
    He’s a star!! 🙂

  8. This just made me stand up and cheer. So excited for your son to get to see his hero in person. That is a once in a lifetime moment.

  9. My boy (age 19, blind, Asperger’s) was excited the year Idol had a blind contestant. In a way, it’s great to see a role model on stage. In another way, I’m sad that television has to feature the role models for them to seem real.

    Take care, and enjoy your unique son. I thoroughly enjoy mine.

  10. This season of Idol has been great… James has the most gorgeous voice, when he’s not wailing the metal rock stuff, and he makes metal more listenable with his set of pipes. I hope you guys have a fantastic night and your little guy gets to meet James. I hear that he sometimes goes out in the audience beforehand to meet people carrying James signs. Definitely bring one along!!

  11. OH! OH! I am SO EXCITED for Jack! I don’t have teevee but I wish I could watch this. Have fun!

  12. Lucretia Pruitt says:

    I don’t know that it ever registered with me that he had Tourettes & OCD… or maybe it did and then it drifted back into that “yeah, but that’s not who he is, it’s just something about him” realm in my mind. So many successful, happy people I have known have some form of ‘diagnosis’ that hits on the autism spectrum that it’s just “one of those things.”
    But how cool is it that James Durbin is making people aware of it? and also aware that it sure doesn’t indicate a lack of talent or verve! 🙂

    You know, I had deliberately not been watching this years AI. But I love this version of Love Potion #9 that Durbin did. so now I’m in the cheering section with you (only via the internet). 🙂

  13. I came to the decision long ago that if I want my son to not be ashamed of his Sensory Processing Disorder, I shouldn’t act like it’s something to be ashamed of by avoiding speaking about it in public.

    I still struggle with that decision and I don’t know for certain whether it was the right one; only time will tell what he thinks in the end about my choice to be open about an issue that affects him so directly. But it feels like the right thing to do.

    It’s awesome that Jack got to meet James!

  14. Aprille (@eileen53) says:

    Love this story – though I’m bummed from what I’m hearing of tonight’s results. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this to you before, but I still highly recommend Oliver Sack’s book, Anthropologist on Mars. The title piece is about Temple Grandin (who rocks). But there’s also one about a surgeon in Canada with Tourettes – how he got where he is, the verbal games he plays with his kids. Sacks’ books are awesome perspective on how people facing all sorts of hurdles deal with them and with life. And not overly technical.

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