Colin Farrell: My son has cerebral palsy

Society Materials 16 October 2007 16:04 (UTC +04:00)
Colin Farrell: My son has cerebral palsy

(dailymail.co.uk) - Hollywood star Colin Farrell has revealed that his young son struggles to walk, speak and learn because of a genetic illness.

Four-year-old James was diagnosed with the rare condition Angelman Syndrome before he reached his first birthday.

Reformed wildman Farrell has now chosen to speak out about his son's condition in the hope that it will give inspiration to other parents.

He also says that he feels incredibly blessed to have his son in his life.

He said: 'There is no heartbreak about it, it's not a sad story. I'm incredibly blessed to have him in my life.

'He has enriched my life incredibly and I wouldn't have it any other way.'

And Farrell was eager to praise the efforts of little James in coping with his disorder, a form of cerebral palsy which is usually characterised by developmental delay, speech impediment and seizures.

'He took his first steps about six weeks ago and it was four years in the making. All the work is his - he's worked his a**e off for four years and when he took the steps it was incredible. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

'He's broken that barrier and it's about building on that now.'

James was born in September 2003 and Colin and his ex-girlfriend Kim Bordenave - an American model - discovered that he had Angelman Syndrome when he was just seven months old.

One of the symptoms of the condition is a constant happiness with frequent outbursts of laughter.

'He's incredibly, incredibly happy. It's a bit mad,' revealed the actor.

And Farrell was quick to praise the efforts of his ex-girlfriend, with whom he now shares a close relationship after some much-publicised animosity when the couple split before the birth of James.

'His mother has done a great job, exploring every avenue, being very hands-on and making his life as rich as possible. She's a wonderful girl.'

Farrell, who has had roles in hit film such as Minority Report and Miami Vice, told the Sunday World that although his son cannot speak, he still interacts in other ways.

'His speech is affected, he's four and he's not really talking yet but he makes the most delectable sounds in the world. You couldn't get a sound as good from a garden of f***ing birds.'

However, the actor made it clear that James still struggles to grasp basic communication skills.

'But he's not speaking which is very frustrating for him. A lot of my frustration comes from wondering how frustrated he is and at times he does get frustrated.

'He can't explain how he feels or what's going on or maybe he wants something and he can't tell you what he wants. We're working on that.'

But Farrell and Bordenave remain committed parents who are always searching for ways to lessen their son's frustrations.

'When they told me first he was going to have occupational therapy I swear to God I thought "he's a bit f***ing young to be asking him what he's going to do with his life".

'Now he works his a**e off with occupational and speech therapy, physio, working on his motor skills.'

James has been on a number of visits to Farrell's family home in Dublin - and he has also met Farrell's 22-year-old girlfriend Muireann McDonnell, a Trinity medical student.

Farrell's mother Rita has been deeply involved in James's development and his older sister Catherine, who also lives in Los Angeles, is also very close to him.

Farrell was initially against bringing James into the public spotlight but his involvement with the Special Olympics spurred him on. When the contest was held in Ireland four years ago, Farrell got involved and was overwhelmed by the experience.

And just months later his own son was diagnosed with a special needs condition.

'It's mad the way the world works. It's bizarre. I experienced the overwhelming effect of being around those athletes just before my son was born with special needs.'

Farrell was also eager to explain why he wanted to talk publicly about his son's illness after keeping it under wraps for four years: 'Because questions are being asked in the last year and because I'm very involved in Special Olympics I think it's just the right time for me to talk about the fact that my son has special needs.

'I didn't want people to think that I was embarrassed by it.

'I don't want to be getting up on my high horse but it would be nice if some people read this and were affected by it in a positive way.

'I think for people who have children with intellectual disability that me coming out and talking about it might be a small bit of solidarity and if that happens it would be good.'

Farrell remains heavily involved in the promotion of the Special Olympics and paid a surprise visit to Ireland's Special Olympics team in Shanghai earlier this month before the opening ceremony of the games.