By Richard Barnes, Photography by Barnes Portrait Design

We always knew our second son wasn't like the rest. He is very creative, allowing himself to be fully consumed by movies and television. After seeing The Lion King on Broadway, he became Simba. When he was Tarzan, he insisted on wearing only a small cloth wherever he went! We spent mortgage payments on Steve's Handy Dandy notebooks, tan pants, and green striped shirts. And we have purchased more Spiderman costumes, Harry Potter wands, and lightsabers than we care to count.

When Ethan was 8, his doctor sat us down for a very important meeting: "Your son has Asperger's." We must have looked puzzled. "It's a form of autism," he said.

"Asperger's?" I turned to my wife Kristen and asked, "What the hell is Asperger's?" Neither of us were quite sure, but we were going to find out. Our quest to learn everything about Asperger's began. What we learned is that it is a deeper level of patience and understanding.

We learned that the outside world is not always nice.

We learned what it was like to fight for someone who couldn't fight for themselves.

We learned that as a parent, your ability to fight will be tested.

We learned that you have a lot more fight in you than you think.

We learned that developing a tough skin is a necessity.

We learned that there is a group of quiet people out there who are amazingly intelligent.

They are a group of people who view the world, and everything in it, just a little differently than most.

They are also a group who are more intelligent than most of us put together.

They are very passionate.

They are caring.

They are very driven.

And they can be wildly funny!

They are artists, scientists, and inventors.

They have, and will continue to, change the world for the better.

And, yes, most are painfully shy.

Reward yourself by getting to know someone on the autism spectrum. It will be more rewarding than you could ever imagine.

Not only am I proud to say, "My son is Ethan Barnes," I am also proud to say, "and he has Asperger syndrome."

Along with his wife Kristen, Richard Barnes is a parent to four children. Both photographers, Richard and Kristen operate Barnes Portrait Design in East Brookfield. When not working, they love to spend time with their kids, outdoors, and traveling to Disney World, Ethan's favorite!