A young Michigan boy, who recently claimed he had no friends, will soon be shocked to learn he has sparked the interest and compassion of the Facebook community. Colin, a 10-year-old boy from Richland, Michigan, told his mother that he did not want a birthday party, since he had no friends to invite. In response, Colin’s mother, Jennifer Cunningham, took to the illustrious social networking site to make a plea for her despondent son.
In a bid to raise Colin’s spirits, Jennifer logged into Facebook and created a special “Happy Birthday Colin” page, earlier this month. On Feb. 2, Jennifer used the newly created page to talk about her son’s struggles in making friends and socializing:
“Because of Colin’s disabilities, social skills are not easy for him, and he often acts out in school, and the other kids don’t like him.”
Jennifer then went on to discuss Colin’s experiences at school. She claims that he is forced to eat alone in the office, everyday, because the other children won’t let him sit with them. She continued, “… rather than force someone to be unhappy with his presence, he sits alone in the office.” She then requested people offer her son words of encouragement and support to boost the young boy’s morale and to make his upcoming birthday truly special.
In the space of just 10 days, the page’s like count soared to over 1.4 million. Currently, the page has gained over 1.6 million likes and has been flooded with tens of thousands of supportive comments and happy birthday wishes. People from around the globe have praised Jennifer’s efforts to help improve her son’s confidence. Aside from all the virtual messages, a number of people have taken the time to send birthday cards and letters, via post.
In light of the overwhelmingly positive response, Jennifer elaborated on her son’s outlook. She describes Colin as a thoughtful kid, who enjoys Doctor Who, Pokémon and playing Nintendo 3DS. Colin is also an active member of his local church and, in the future, aspires to become either a comedian, a pastor or a missionary. She also discussed Colin’s surprisingly optimistic attitude, and his unwillingness to complain about the treatment he receives from his peers. When his mother asked him why he didn’t complain about going to school, Colin’s response was “Because you’ve got [to] keep trying.”
Colin was diagnosed with an Asperger-like disorder, which is partly responsible for the other school children treating him differently. Asperger syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is hard to pin down and treat. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, although cognitive and speech delays are not often seen in children with Asperger syndrome – with many having above-average intelligence – the condition is characterized by social difficulties, delayed motor development and unusual physical behaviors.
During a recent interview, Colin’s mother explained that light, sound and changes will cause the young boy to have a “melt down,” since he also suffers from sensory processing disorder. Sensory processing disorder is a condition that has been likened to a neurological “traffic jam,” where particular sensory signals are not appropriately relayed to certain regions of the brain; as a result, sensory signals are not interpreted correctly, and sufferers either “over-respond” or “under-respond” to a specific form of sensory input.
Colin’s mom is trying to keep the Facebook page a surprise, until his birthday on March 9. Jennifer has recently indicated that it is becoming harder and harder to keep the page a secret from her son, since the story is making headlines. Although Jennifer was planning to take her son to McDonalds to share the Facebook messages, she is now revising her plans and thinking of a bigger way to break the news.
By James Fenner