Recently I was asked in my #hellomornings group “Share something that is a blessing to you but not necessary to others.” I thought about this statement briefly. What blesses me that might not bless others around me? My immediate thought, as my youngest son ran around the room, was Autism.
How is Autism a blessing? In so many ways.
We first heard this word in regards to our family 4 years ago. At the start of 2011 we were finally realizing that this word would somehow be a part of our world. We started to look up articles about it. We started to do our research. We pushed to get help for our son who was turning 5. This little man who struggled in our world. He struggled to communicate. He struggled to socialize with other children. We were at our wits’ end. There were times when he was screaming and uncontrollable and we didn’t know what to do. I would put him in his room and hold the door closed. I would cry just as much as he did. I struggled when I volunteered at his preschool and watched as the other kids ostracized him because he did speak funny and didn’t play like they did. I watched my friend struggle as the preschool teacher in trying to include him and trying to assist in some of his sensory issues when we didn’t even know how to do this ourselves.
In March of 2011, after a 4 hour appointment with 4 specialists and a social worker, all asking questions about our middleman, I finally heard the official words: “Your son does have autsim.” I remember sitting in the van with my guy and calling my husband at work (we didn’t think we would receive a diagnosis after 1 appointment), telling him the news. I felt lost and lonely.
I began to struggle with God at this time. We had already made the decision to move to a province that had support for children with disabilities. In doing so, I was moving from our small town, moving away from my tight circle of bible study friends. I struggled with some of my friends not supporting our decision. I struggled with the initial appointments that I had to drive our son to weekly for either speech or occupational therapy. This among the stress that goes into a move – packing, selling a house, purchasing a house, etc.
When we moved, the transition was pretty seamless (definitely a God thing). I had been told to expect a lot of issues but our middleman loved our new house. We began to contact organizations and agencies to obtain the help we required, as well as contacting our school division to start the first steps of our entry into inclusive education. Everything was new and scary. I spent the next few months alone. I stayed at our home. I rarely went out. You never knew what would happen. Would our middleman have a meltdown in the store? Would our younger son take off?
We attended a church we had previously attended. If you think we received help from our church, you would be wrong. The Pastor and his wife were friends of mine (they were called to another ministry almost 2 years ago). They were very supportive of us, however, I didn’t, and still don’t, get the support you would think the church would provide. My spiritual life lagged. I had joined a Good Morning Girls group and started to study the Bible with ladies across North America (but it wasn’t the same as my Bible Babes). I continued to feel like I was walking in a fog in my spiritual walk.
While all this was happening, our youngest son was showing signs of autism. This was confirmed by our pediatrician when he turned 3. I remember driving to that appointment praying to God that it would not be autism. Didn’t I deserve to have a normal son? Had we not already given up so much with our middleman? All those hopes and dreams. Didn’t we get to have them with BamBam.
It felt like God was ignoring us. It felt like we kept getting the shaft. That we couldn’t catch a break. To make matters worse 3 years after middleman’s initial diagnosis of Autism, he had a grand mal seizure and now we had another diagnosis to contend with. REALLY GOD? Can you heap anymore on me and my family?
I have been in so many pits these last three years. I have struggled and I wish I could tell you that we have come out so blessed, but the reality is we still struggle. The questions continue: Are we doing enough? Are we doing too much? Will we get funding for this? Will our kids get along socially with their peers? Will our daughter have to do what we do now in the future for her brothers? Will she want to? Will we ever see above the fog that prevails around us?
I am sure you are wondering if we have lost all hope. Do we languish in our pit of despair and disability?
I can tell you there is hope.
I have seen so much happen for my boys. I have witnessed my gentle oldest son make friends and play. I have watched others be amazed at how intelligent he is. I have watched him struggle, and yet, he is so loving and caring and so full of fun and laughter. I have seen him upset over lost lego and yet, excited about a friend’s birthday even though he wasn’t invited to the party. I have seen him embrace family friends who were victim of a flood in our area and welcome them in our home and lives without a second thought.
I have seen BamBam go from non verbal to yelling negatives at me – “No I don’t want to wear jeans! SWEAT PANTS!!!” (frustrating and exciting all at the same time.) I have seen him interact with other kids in his class. I have seen him win over everyone with his amazing blue eyes and long lashes (unfortunately he now knows how cute he is and takes advantage of it). I have watched him embrace my friend’s dogs and remember them even though not he hadn’t seen them in over a year. I have watched him learn to read and love it when he reads everything and learns more about the world around him.
I was able to build a team of therapists for my boys in one month even though I was told this could take at least a year. I have seen our local school go from one of minor inclusion to full inclusion and getting rid of labels for kids with disabilities. I have made great friends I wouldn’t have met if I wasn’t on this journey. I have also met God.
God loves my sons. He loves my sons more than I do. He loves them because He created them in His image. He loves them because He made them fearfully and wonderfully. He loves them because they are His. When I am at my lowest, when I am struggling, I know I have a Father who loves His sons just as much and more than I do. I know He wants the best for them, hat He longs for them and meets them where they are.
When our middleman was 5, during children’s church he was asked to draw a picture of himself. However, not really understanding the task, middleman wrote his name. It was the first time I had ever seen him do it. I rejoiced. I knew that God had middleman’s name written on the palm of His hand. He knew what I was going through and was going through it with me.
So yes, Autism has been a struggle for me. But it has also been a great blessing. I have had to learn to submit. To surrender. To be humble (I mean I do have monthly “poopy” meetings with my Occupational Therapist). To ask for help. I have had to give up my dreams and hopes and plans and turn them over to God and learn to live under His plans, His hopes and His dreams for me and family.
Michelle is a wife to her Y2K guy and mother of three amazing exceptional children. She enjoys reading, talking, eating, cooking, taking selfies and listening to music however not all at the same time She is a neat freak but is learning to embrace the messiness of life. She is a passionate advocate for those with disabilities and their families. She is a strong proponent of inclusion in all aspects of life and believes that the Church has a long to way to go to live up to seeing everyone as God see them.