Julia Vandenoever  ·  Being Grayson

On a morning drive to school, Grayson told me, “I’ll show you the other way dad goes tomorrow. The way is different than yours, but it's the same.” His words latched onto my heart. Different is not always easy and acceptable. Different can be uncomfortable and awkward. We learned early on our son did not fit into many expected boxes. Following multi-step directions, sitting for longer than 10 minutes, as well as talking constantly landed Grayson in the principal’s office regularly. The “bad kid who just needed to try harder” label was a misconception, because at age 7 Grayson was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia.

As a child with ADHD and dyslexia, Grayson’s whole world operates on a separate frequency. Both of these are neurological, which means his brain is wired differently. There are no outward physical signs. The differences are shown through behavior like disorganization, forgetfulness, and impulsivity. Daily activities such as getting dressed, doing homework, taking a shower, or eating dinner have their own rhythm and pace, because time is irrelevant. We were late for school one morning when Grayson grabbed 10 pairs of socks, put them all on at once, and squeezed his feet into his sneakers. I could offer no words to convince him that he would be uncomfortable. Everything stops when Grayson gets a sticky thought. He needs to experience things to believe them, and what seems illogical to us feels necessary to him.

Being Grayson is an exploration and celebration of Grayson's process, a process that is often misunderstood. For me, guiding him along his path at times has been isolating. The act of photographing both his and my experiences is cathartic and promotes understanding and acceptance to the mystery of his logic. We’ve learned how to have a dialogue. By slowing down alongside him, not asking him to change, I see his beauty and gifts to the world. There is space for Grayson to be Grayson.