When Nathan was young and we were still reeling from the "autism" diagnosis, I took solace from parents whose children were older than mine and who "had been there before." I talked with everyone I could, read more books than are healthy, and joined a support group for parents of children with Asperger's Syndrome.
After I came to a feeling of "acceptance" I felt strongly that I should share our story with others. I have always been open about Nathan's diagnosis, my struggle to accept it and my religious experience surrounding autism.
Sometimes God talks to me.
I can't make you believe it, and it certainly doesn't make me extra holy, or better than anyone else. I've just had extra reason to plead with our Lord and He's been gracious enough to answer me.
My life has been changed irrevocably by having a child diagnosed with Autism. If I could have given you a map of my life when I was 20, it would have not included any instance of the struggle that we have had over the last 16 years.
When our psychologist (we love you, Mr. Mike!) told us that Nathan had a disorder called autism and that it would be life long ( he was 3 at the time - a long life ahead of him, and us), I was unable to really process the information. I remember thinking, "he'll be ok by Christmas." Well, he wasn't.
At three and four, Nathan couldn't tell us what he ate for snack at preschool or even understand that the ball he wanted was in his bedroom. It made me rethink everything I thought I knew about the way children learn language. It would take me paragraphs and paragraphs to explain what I'm talking about. Trust Me.
One night, I was sitting on the rocking chair in my sons' (I have two- 20 months apart) room. Nathan was about 3 1/2 and Nolan was 2. They were sleeping in their bunk beds (the 2 year old Nolan on top) and I prayed fervently for Nathan. Clear as a bell, God said to me, "Accept him as he is."
I think I must have jumped out of my skin at the words.
Twelve years later I have never forgotten those Holy words. I must put aside the thoughts and dreams for the young man I think I have created and remember that the Lord has much bigger, much greater plans for Nathan than I could ever have comprehended.
Nathan is so beautiful: In body, in spirit, in soul.
I can't begin to tell all of you how proud I am of his hard work, of his compassion toward others, of his thoughtfulness toward those less fortunate than him.
He thinks of those who have less than he does. Even though he knows he has a disability and it troubles him.
So, a little while ago a father of a young child with Autism asked me:
"Any tips that you would have for parents who are relatively new to this? Have anything that you would want for an autistic child's parents to know?"
I knew that a one sentence answer would not suffice. I knew that I must tell that father, and all of those who loved someone with autism the truth that the FATHER had given to me so many years ago: "Love him just as he is." I have made him perfect.
I hope that this helps you.
Whoever you are. And whoever you Love.
That child, that adult was made PERFECT in the Father's love.
Just as Nathan was made perfect and has taught me perfection beyond what I could have learned on my own.