'My son just came alive. I looked at him, and he was so happy and he was smiling,' said the boy's mother, who has since written a book about it.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on June 16, 2022
Brandon Brundidge was diagnosed with autism when he was 3 years old. "His autism presents as social anxiety, and he's very fearful of a lot of things—you know, like being around and talking to people," the now 9-year-old's mom, Sheletta Brundidge, told TODAY Parents. "And he stutters, so he will talk with his hand over his mouth—he thinks that he can catch the stutters as they come out." Two of Brandon's three siblings also have been diagnosed with autism and since flying presents a challenge to the kids, the Minnesota-based family prefers to go on vacations in their RV, driving to various states with attractions that are autism-friendly.
Unironically one of the most wholesome stories I’ve seen recently pic.twitter.com/AQNEpPPMPP— Right Wing Cope (@RightWingCope) June 9, 2022
It was during one such trip to Houston, Texas, in March that Brandon first came across the phrase used by Donald Trump supporters to show their dislike for President Joe Biden: "Let's go Brandon." While attending Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Brundidge noticed that her usually shy and anxious son had suddenly begun acting uncharacteristically outgoing. "We were in an RV park, and my son kept saying, 'Mom, these people here love me!' And I was like, 'Boy, what are you talking about?'" the 40-year-old recalled. "And he said, 'They got my signs up everywhere! They were waiting for me to get here!' I just saw this sudden confidence come over him."
Brundidge was shocked when her son told her he wanted to get in the RV park's pool. "He's afraid he's going to drown in the tub when I bathe him," she said. "He doesn't like the shower because he's scared water will get in his eyes. Suddenly, he wanted to get in the pool?" Then, the young boy asked his mom if she would take off his bike's training wheels. Not long after, she saw him walking up to strangers, saying hello and telling them how well he was doing in school. Then, to top it all off, he tried to ride his brother's hoverboard.
Brandon Brundidge, 9, thought anti-Joe Biden flags were made by kind strangers who wanted to show him their support. "They're cheering for me!" he said. https://t.co/jHKiGTQQ0r— TODAY (@TODAYshow) June 13, 2022
"I didn't know what was happening to my child," Brundidge said. "First he was scared. Hell, now I'm scared. I had no idea what was going on." It all started to make sense when during a ride on a golf cart around the RV park, Brandon told his mom to suddenly stop. "He pointed and said, 'Mom, do you spot my sign?" she said. "And I looked up and saw that 'Let's go Brandon' flag." The phrase became a right-wing mantra in October 2021 after a NASCAR race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. A crowd in the background started chanting, "F*** Joe Biden" while NBC Sports reporter Kelli Stavast was interviewing driver Brandon Brown and Stavast suggested on air that the crowd was saying, "Let's go Brandon." The two phrases became synonymous after that point.
A true silver lining, we hope Brandon continues on tackling his fears!https://t.co/htpTOWLtoO— theGrio.com (@theGrio) June 14, 2022
Brundidge said that although she knew what the phrase meant and could have pulled her son quietly aside and explained to him that the phrase was "really a rallying cry to insult the president," she couldn't do it after seeing how much it meant to the little boy. "My son just came alive," she said. "I looked at him, and he was so happy and he was smiling. And my other kids didn't know what it meant either, so they started chanting, 'Let's go Brandon!'" The incident gave Brundidge the idea for a new book. The mom-of-four, who has been writing children's books about her own autistic kids, has so far published "Cameron Goes to School"—about her daughter going to kindergarten for the first time—and "Daniel Finds His Voice"—a book about her son Daniel, who learned how to speak through music.
"Minnesota's Autism Mom," Sheletta Brundidge, has a new book out inspired by one of her sons, Brandon, who found an alternative context for the coded phrase "Let's Go Brandon." https://t.co/czwoWEQfX4. 📸 Yasmin Yassin @shelettaisfunny pic.twitter.com/t3gzteEqXU— Minnesota Monthly (@MNMOmag) June 6, 2022
"This year, though, I told Brandon I wasn't going to do his book," Brundidge revealed. "I had been reading the room, and the 'Critical Race Theory' crowd was out there snatching Black authors' books off the shelf for no good reason other than there were Black people on the cover of the book. So I told him I just couldn't do it. Maybe next year." However, the incredible change she saw in Brandon after noticing the "Let's go Brandon" signs pushed her to change her mind. She got in touch with her publicist as soon as possible and told her they had four weeks to write and publish "Brandon Spots His Sign" in time for Autism Awareness Day.
Can I tell you we just left (literally) the RV park where it happened a few months ago and we did not see ONE #LetsGoBrandon flag anywhere. I was gonna have my son Brandon hold his book up underneath one and take a photo since that's where it all started and we couldn't find ONE! pic.twitter.com/XtmfZgatXY— Sheletta Brundidge (@ShelettaIsFunny) June 9, 2022
"She said that's not possible—it takes six to nine months to do a book. We'll put it out next year," Brundidge explained. "I said, 'No, we're not. We're going to book this out in four weeks.'" Illustrator, Darcy Bell-Meyers, whose daughter is also autistic, dropped everything to create the pictures for "Brandon Spots His Sign" and Brandon's special education teacher, Ms. Carlson, developed the resource page in the back of the book "to help kids learn how to engage with their friends who have autism." Against all odds, the book was ready in time for World Autism Day.
That's my baby.— Sheletta Brundidge (@ShelettaIsFunny) June 12, 2022
That's my book. pic.twitter.com/2gEJfDJhFg
"Brandon Spots His Sign" is now the No. 1 parenting book on children with disabilities, and the No. 2 book on anxiety disorders, on Amazon. "He single-handedly changed the meaning of 'Let's go Brandon,'" Brundidge said. "I have dozens of emails from parents who say that's what they tell their kids; emails from teachers and therapists who say 'Let's go Brandon' to their kids who are on the spectrum and who do something great, or use that phrase to encourage them." However, the biggest surprise of all came in mid-May when Brandon and his family received a letter from none other than the President of the United States.
How it started: March 2022 we were at an RV park in Houston when my son Brandon spotted #LetsGoBrandon flags and thought folk were cheering for him— Sheletta Brundidge (@ShelettaIsFunny) June 9, 2022
How it's going: May 2022 we wrote the best selling #autism children's book Brandon Spots His Sign and got a letter from @POTUS! pic.twitter.com/xSkgHciUGx
"[Brandon] was so excited and he was so encouraged and he was so inspired," Brundidge said. "He's in virtual school and the letter came during the day. He immediately took the letter and interrupted his math class, saying, 'I just got a letter from the president.'" The teacher said, 'Excuse me, Brandon. We don't tell tales.' And he said, 'No, I really did! Look!'" According to the proud mom, she's seen an incredible change in her son since receiving the letter. "He is walking up to people and engaging them in conversation. He is not afraid to talk about the ideas that he has," Brundidge explained. "He's out there laughing and talking and playing and doing all the fun stuff that I never thought I'd see my child do."
Let me put some good news on your timeline and a smile on your face: My son got a letter from @POTUS. @JoeBiden read his #autism book Brandon Spots His Sign and was so moved by his story, he sent a note of support and encouragement. Brandon was so excited. https://t.co/zpmrHpcfbF pic.twitter.com/hSqhbaByBR— Sheletta Brundidge (@ShelettaIsFunny) May 27, 2022