Curt and Shonda Schilling: The Best Kind of Different
By Shawn Brown
The 700 Club
For 20 years Major League pitcher Curt Schilling was a force to be reckoned with. He led three teams to four World Series appearances with three championships. A notable performance was during the American League Championship Series against the Yankees where he pitched with a torn tendon in his ankle. But with the pressure that comes with begin a big league pitcher, Curt and his wife Shonda will tell you the biggest struggle was at home with their third child Grant.
Curt Schilling: Wow. The jump from 1 to 2 and 2 to 3 is like going from 1 to 2 and 2 to 700. Now that there’s three kids, the defense no longer applies. You’ve got to play zone, and there’s always one in play.
Three years ago Grant was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism in which an individual displays eccentric behavior. But for the first seven years of his life, neither Curt nor Shonda knew of his condition.
Shawn Brown: When did you notice that No. 3 was a little bit different?
Shonda Schilling: There were things that he did when he was little. If he fell, I couldn’t pick him up and hug him. He would cry and I would touch him to say, "Are you okay?" He would go, "Stop! Stop!" He would just kind of fight, fight, fight. He was inconsolable. You couldn’t comfort him.
In 2000 the Phillies traded Curt to Arizona. Shonda had to take care of the kids and the move. In the midst of it all, things with Grant got worse.
Shawn: How did you feel when he was pushing you away when you tried to comfort him?
Shonda: I felt defeated. I just felt defeated. I couldn’t figure out how I was going to connect and be a mother to him. I was doing everything in my power that I knew and none of it was working.
Curt helped lead the Diamondbacks to the 2001 World Series. The Schillings had another addition to the family, their youngest son Garrison. Then in 2004, Curt was traded to the Boston Red Sox. But by this time, Grant's behavior was taking its toll on their marriage.
Shonda: It made me feel sad. It made me feel alone. It made me feel crazy. It made me feel like not a good mother, because I would call him on the road and he would say, "He doesn’t respect you. You need to discipline him more." I felt I was doing what everything I possibly could. So what happened between us was, I didn’t want to tell him anything, because I didn’t want to hear his quick fix-all thing when he wasn’t here to see what was going on.
Curt: I was frustrated, because I never got the phone call, "We just had the greatest day ever. We had so much fun." I’m looking at what we have as as life and thinking we’re the most blessed, lucky human beings in existence, making millions of dollars a year to play baseball. We get to travel the world. I only have to work six months out of the year, and every phone call was a fight.
Curt and Shonda needed answers. They believed Grant had ADHD and went to see a doctor, but after testing Grant was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. The Schillings were in denial.
Shonda: I know what autism is. He can’t be autistic. We know what autistic kids are. When I went to that doctor’s appointment, he said he’s one the spectrum of autism. I couldn’t have felt more numb than I felt at that moment.
Shawn: Did you feel bad?
Curt: Yeah. Immense guilt. Immense guilt. Because, much like she said, Grant for his entire life was getting punished for things he didn’t understand why he was getting punished.
With help from the doctor and their faith in Christ, they began to understand Grant’s condition and learned how to deal with it. Today, the Schillings have found peace. Shonda has written a book entitled, The Best Kind of Different, and they hope their story will help bring peace to others who may have similar struggles.
Shonda: The house became quite. All the yelling stopped, which I think was the best thing in the world. I realized that I had to change my approach. I had to learn how to bring the best out of Grant. You just keep looking for the positive in it. We’ve found so much positive in this that you know it’s changed our lives. It’s made me happier than I’ve ever been in my life. It’s the lessons that I’ve learned that have put me this place.
Curt: I absolutely have made peace in a lot of different ways by understanding the Lord will never put something on your plate you can’t handle. I think the reason a lot of people lose their faith is their self-doubt. I’ve always said, "If the Lord thinks I can do this, who am I to doubt Him?" I think other people think there’s just no way I can live up to His expectations. He’s all knowing. He’s got us all figured out.
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