• Sharon Hancock

Different: The Story of an Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him



Title: Different: The Story of an Outside-the-Box Kid

and the Mom Who Loved Him

Author: Sally Clarkson and Nathan Clarkson

Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.: Carol Stream, IL, 2016


Authors Sally Clarkson and her son, Nathan, know what it’s like to feel alone, disheartened, inadequate, and full of despair. They know how it feels to reach out for answers and support, only to receive judgment and scorn. Nathan is Sally’s “different” child who suffers from multiple mental illnesses. When he was 27, Nathan suggested they write this book together to let other parents and “different” children know they are not alone. The book tells their story, offering hope and encouragement to those in similar situations.

Nathan, the third of four children, was “different” from birth. Sleepless nights were filled with screaming that couldn’t be soothed, no matter what Sally and her husband tried. Nathan was a sweet, energetic, extrovert child, full of fun, but he struggled to control the racing thoughts constantly swirling in his head. Crowds, colors, and things out of place overwhelmed him. His turbulent childhood was marked by meltdowns that occurred without warning. His unpredictable behavior made life exhausting for his entire homeschooling family.

As a teenager Nathan feared germs, so he washed his hands until they bled and showered multiple times a day. He often thought he would contaminate his family if he hugged them. He wouldn’t eat certain foods and didn’t want his family to even touch some foods. Nathan could only focus for a few minutes at a time, often making it difficult to learn simple concepts. He questioned everything and loudly argued, argued, argued.

Nathan realized that no matter how much he tried, he couldn’t be like everybody else or “see life like ‘everybody else.’” Eventually he was diagnosed with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder).

Sally guided him with love, acceptance, instruction, discipline, limits, and clear boundaries to the best of her abilities. She focused on his heart attitudes rather than expecting set outcomes. In doing so, she devised her own parenting guidelines, called LAUNCH:

Loving [Nathan] with the love of God

Affirming him daily, believing in who he will become

Understanding his limitations and learning to be patient with his disability

Never passing on guilt to him for being limited

Changing his heart gradually through training in character and inner strength

Holding expectations loosely and leaving him in the hands of God[1]

At one point in their journey Sally felt relief and freedom “when I understood that I didn’t have to solve all our problems at once or even understand them,” she wrote. “God would be with me every step of the way. He would fill in the holes of my inadequacy with His grace. And He was inviting me to a commitment of unconditional acceptance.”

Sally recognized that Nathan has infinite value, a generous heart, and a desire to understand his own life’s purpose. “Our boy was not a diagnosis. Not a problem to be solved or a disorder to be fixed,” she explained. “He was a child to be guided and trained and gloried in.”

Nathan stopped homeschooling to attend a local high school. After graduating he earned a scholarship for the New York Film Academy. His career has included acting, screenwriting, filmmaking, blogging, and authoring three books. He’s currently married and living in New York. In his mother’s words, he grew into “a compassionate, humble, gentle man of moral and spiritual strength.”

Parents struggling with a “different” child need to realize they are their child’s best advocate because they know their child better than anyone. Sally recommends getting professional help, educating yourself, researching avenues of assistance, and praying a lot. She cautions against seeking a quick fix. Also, don’t underestimate what your child can accomplish. Like Nathan, your child may achieve far more than anything you’ve ever expected.

[1] Sally Clarkson and Nathan Clarkson, Different: The Story of an Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him, (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Momentum, 2016), 41-42.

© 2018 by Sharon Hancock. All rights reserved.