updated 10/15/2007 AT 1:55 PM ET
•originally published 10/15/2007 AT 2:30 PM ET
Colin Farrell has revealed that his 4-year-old son James suffers from a rare neuro-genetic disorder called Angelman Syndrome – but that he’s a brave and happy child.
“The only time I’m reminded that there is something different about him – that he has some deviation of what is perceived to be normal – is when I see him with other 4-year-olds. Then I go, ‘Oh yeah,’ and it comes back to me,” Farrell tells the Irish Independent. “But from day one I felt that he’s the way he’s meant to be.”
Farrell says James shows “amazing courage,” and adds: “[I’m] incredibly blessed to have him in my life.”
The 31-year-old actor shares custody of James with ex-girlfriend Kim Bordenave, the boy’s mother – whom Farrell credits with helping James get the help he needs. The child’s early years have been a struggle, Farrell says, but recently the family enjoyed a major breakthrough.
“He took his first steps about six weeks ago, and it was four years in the making,” Farrell says. “It was incredibly emotional. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
Angelman Syndrome is characterized by developmental delay, speech impairment, movement or balance disorder, excessive laughter and even seizures, according to the Angelman Syndrome Foundation. Children who have the disorder are often not diagnosed until they are between 3 and 7 years old.
But Farrell refuses to characterize the condition as a disability.
“I have never thought of my son as being someone with a disability,” he says. “It goes back to special needs and what is a disability and what isn’t.”
Coincidentally, Farrell helped promote the Special Olympics before his son’s diagnosis. “I experienced the overwhelming effect of being around those athletes pretty much just before my son was born,” says Farrell. “It’s mad the way the world works.”