“He’ll grow out of it, some children talk late” that’s the phrase I received from my mother and day care providers. “He will grow out if It” was not what I wanted to hear. I wanted to know why my son, then just about one and a half years old, was not talking. Why when I called him he would not respond or look at me in the eyes. Was he deaf? He uttered very few recognizable words and the incessant grinding of his teeth. Walking on tippy toes and never letting go of his little red block or blue car. I was concerned as any mother would be, but still I did not want to compare him to his brother who was just two years older. All his physical milestones were met but there was just that nagging feeling that something was just not right.
I was referred by a friend to a speech therapist but before our first appointment I turned to the internet. I simply typed in ‘my child walks on his tippy toes and grinds his teeth’ and the barrage of information hit me. Terms like 'sensory processing disorder, characteristic of children with autism spectrum disorder'. The tears flowed right there and then as I read and checked off many of my son’s characteristic traits on this checklist for sensory processing disorders.
I felt helpless, confused, hurt, sad and angry. It was just a whirlwind of emotions. Tears flowed daily for some time. Until I thought to myself “what can I learn about you Lord, in all of this?" "What are you teaching me about me in this?" One day I eventually asked “why not me?” instead of “why me?”
I began to read a lot of articles and handouts on autism, attended parent workshops just so that I could equip myself to help my son, but it was the Lord’s presence that I relied on to be my very present help. He gave me strength and grace not just for me, but also to encourage other parents.
Aiden is my super hero with Autism Spectrum Disorder, he was formally diagnosed at age 5 and raising this child with a special need has been both a blessing and a challenge. A challenge for the obvious reasons, and a blessing because you may never know the depths of victory and joy until you see your child overcoming their challenges. There were times when I would be jealous of other parents. It is hard for me to come out and say that, but it is true. I would feel a pang of jealousy. It hurts when I see Aiden struggling so hard to learn to do something that comes naturally to a typical child. It may sound petty, and though true, it does not diminish all my joy and pride in what he has accomplished so far, like being able to use the bathroom or take a proper shower on his own, to make strides in his speech and communication skills or even try to make a joke and prank his older brother.
Aiden is now my 13-year-old son with ASD and my journey with him in my life is a very picturesque one; one where God’s grace has kept my mind from cracking, my strength from waning and my faith from faltering. The journey to this moment has been a learning experience for me and my entire family. Lessons in patience, listening keenly, loving more and learning to just have the emotional strength to not get frazzled when someone outside our circle just doesn’t ‘get it’, or gives you that ‘look’ when you’re in the grocery and he bursts out a weird squeal.
In spite of it all including the tears over the years, it has caused my faith to be stronger. Faith that says, “With God all things are possible…” and “ALL things work for my GOOD”. Challenged and pushed beyond our limits as a family in raising this energetic, loving, innovative, creative, intelligent boy with autism. I have grown tremendously as a person, and developed a soft heart and empathy for others in a way I never would have without him. That looks like grace to me. Aiden is the most amazing thing to happen to our family. He’s so funny, and caring. Sometimes, when I’ve had a rough day, I might not say much. I don’t often share with friends and even family, the depths of what I go through when it comes to Aiden; most times I tell it to Jesus alone. I’m so grateful for the many opportunities over the years to share my story with others because I’ve realized that in so doing, I also help myself.
I thank God for placing Aiden in our lives. The challenges have taught me that God’s grace is amazing even in the midst of my autism story. I’ve learned to Live with a joy that flows to others, Love with an intensity that transforms others and Laugh so hard that when you do, others can’t help but smile or laugh as well.
So is it hard being the parent of a child with autism? Yes, but I would not trade it for the world. It may be tough at times, but in many ways, I feel blessed knowing that God’s grace is sufficient and that it is His amazing Grace that keeps me.