I vividly recall the emotional psychologist who diagnosed my son with autism at the age of 3. She was distraught, tender, and very supportive of the process that we would have to go to. Unfortunately, I found myself holding back snickers at her emotions instead of tears at the diagnosis. I had prepared myself for the diagnosis before it actually took place. His father and I were fine with it, after all why worry about things that you cannot change. The next step was simply to be proactive. However, the most troubling thing about the diagnosis was the fact that we were told we could now start the grieving process for our son.
Grieving process? Not hardly, it was autism not a terminal form of cancer or some other incurable illness–autism. (Mind you my heart goes out to those who have loved ones or are personally experiencing a terminal illness, nothing in me can fathom the weight of that.)
The date of that diagnosis has set the tone for what I have experienced raising Alex during this time. I often find myself wondering (and I really want to get this on a T-shirt) “He’s autistic, now what’s YOUR problem?” I am on the more fortunate end of the autism spectrum with my son, because he happens to be rather high functioning. On the contrary, that does not mean that his quirks should be overlooked, nor his emotions underestimated. People often ask, “How do you live with that? How do you deal with a child who has autism? What does that feel like?”
I don’t understand this line of questioning. He’s my son, to me autism is nothing more than a mood swing in a child without a diagnosis. I refrain from using the word normal, as the meaning has tendency to fluctuate these days.
There are moments where I don’t understand Alex at all and I need his help in order to navigate in his world. However, there are other moments where his presence fills me up with the simplest thing. I’ve waited for years to hear him tell me that he loves, offer hugs, giggles, and actually miss me–but its here. Living with and loving Alex has given me a different perspective and appreciation for how our relationship with God should be.
God knows that we are imperfect. There are times when our sins and transgressions surely make him want to pull his hair out, knock us out, or leave us flailing about in a public setting as he walks away hot and embarrassed, no longer wishing to claim ownership, kinship, or affiliation of any kind. But, like so many parents have done time and time again, he stays. He waits until our bad mood lifts, the temperament changes and until we understand that we must behave and act accordingly.
The slightest things that we do make God’s heart soar with pride. He beams at our efforts to share the gospel with others, not through citing scripture, but through acts he has mandated: offering shelter to those who don’t have any, clothing, entertaining strangers with pleasant conversation free of judgement and filled with compassion, giving your best even if its your last to others, and just doing what he has asked and called us to do. Obedience in faith is as precious to God as the crummy, hand-crafted works of art and offerings we are showered with from our children. Our awkward, clumsy, off-key signs of faith are just as melodious to God as we undoubtedly believe that OUR child was the cutest carrot, star, or tree in the program.
So how do I cope with a child who has Autism? The same way God copes with his cornucopia of malfunctioning children…I think nothing of it because I know my world is so much brighter when I allow it to mesh into his. I can’t imagine living with my child being any other way, for it is his quirks that refine him and make him special. This is the way God has made all of us different, quirky, special…God Smiles, and so it is.