You know him from ABC’s show, “The Middle.” Atticus Shaffer, 12, is a normal kid who loves to play with LEGO’s, act, watch movies, and play video games. But he’s got to be a little more careful than most kids. You see, Atticus has brittle bone disease.
Brittle bone disease (or osteogenesis imperfecta) is a congenital disease that affects 6-7 people per 100,000 people worldwide. Brittle bone disease is diagnosed at different levels of severity. All people with brittle bone disease have weak bones caused by a defect in the gene that produces collagen that is an important building block of bone.
Some of those with brittle bone disease suffer frequent breaks, poor teeth, scoliosis, bowed legs and arms, early hearing loss, blue tint to the whites of the eyes, slow growth (below average height), and heart and respiratory problems.
The one thing about brittle bone disease is that most people who have this disease have the milder form of brittle bone disease. And even though it greatly affects their daily life and the things they may be able to do, it doesn’t stop them from having a near normal life. Precautions need to be taken, but life doesn’t stop. Currently, there is no cure for brittle bone disease. However, there are some procedures and things that can be done to strengthen the bones and help reduce the amount of bone breakage.
Atticus Shaffer is one example of living with brittle bone disease and living his dream of being an actor. Atticus has Type IV osteogenesis imperfecta. He inherited it from his mother who has Type 1 osteogenesis imperfecta. Type IV can cause hearing loss, short stature and spinal curvatures, frequent bone breakages (especially during puberty or growth spurts), and mild to moderate bone deformity.
But none of this has slowed Atticus down. He came onto the acting scene in 2009 when he played Matty Newton in the 2009 supernatural thriller “The Unborn.” He then went on to play Brick in “The Middle.”
Atticus takes his disease all in stride. “It adds to my colorful personality,” he has been quoted as saying. Atticus loves LEGO’s, often building sets and making his own stop motion videos with his camcorder. He is home schooled, lives with a small farm of cats, dogs, and even a chicken at his home an hour north of Burbank. He is a history war buff and loves Halloween.
But his disease isn’t doesn’t go unnoticed. Exercise is hard for Atticus and often the camera does not follow him as he walks since he walks with such a noticeable limp from breaks to his legs when he was a child. And he says this about his condition, “”All I know, is that I feel extremely blessed to be on TV. It’s a hard job, but real life is harder. Truth be told, playgrounds can be war zones.”
The producer of his show, “The Middle” also points out that even though Brick (Atticus) plays a quirky, “nerdy” character on TV, he has become the favorite of many. But he points out that he hopes that it raises awareness of these kids not just on TV, but to the real world as well.
Atticus hasn’t let life slow him down, and he still enjoys being a kid. He hopes that this will raise awareness of the fact that those living with this disease can “be normal” and should treated as such.
Everyone Loves the Weird Kid http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/09/arts/television/09atticus.html
Atticus Shaffer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atticus_Shaffer
Osteogenesis Imperfecta: https://health.google.com/health/ref/Osteogenesis+imperfecta