Today April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day.
You will hear a lot of numbers today concerning the rate of autism and how many people are affected. One study shows 1 in 88 children born today will be on the autism spectrum. Another recent survey reveals that 1 in 50 school age children are on the autism spectrum.
But there is one statistic that has the most profound significance and meaning to me, and that is 1 in 1.
I have one child, and he has autism.
He also has brown hair, blue eyes, and an infectious smile.
Autism no more defines him than those other characteristics define him. My son has never developed language so we live with a completely non-verbal now 15-year old boy. He watches the same exact video every day at 5:00pm, (has for nine years) and acts like he is viewing it for the first time. He has to follow his routine, structure, and schedule relentlessly. And when his sensory environment gets overloaded, he shuts down.
Every single aspect of our life has been affected and altered by his autism. Our dreams, our plans, our schedule, our finances, our faith, our every day way of life, its all been affected. Autism is emotional strip mining of the soul. Nothing is left unscathed or unscarred.
Dealing with our son’s special needs has been the most challenging and demanding thing we could ever imagine. It has also been so rewarding and the biggest blessing we can imagine.
We have learned the true essence of unconditional love. We have learned what true utter dependence on God really means. We have learned about sacrificial love, finding joy in the simple things, living life one day at a time, and treasuring every moment and every accomplishment.
We have learned so very much about the nature and character of God, and we have learned so much about our relationship with each other, with God, and to the world around us.
People often ask, “don’t you wish your life was normal?”
My answer is that “this is my normal.”
This is all I know so this must be my normal.
Normal is what you say it is.
Our life is not dictated by our circumstances or situation. Our lives are dictated by how we choose to respond to them. Autism has robbed our family of so much in this life. And yes it has scarred us. But the way we have responded to it and used the experience to enrich us, teach us, and bless us has allowed God to redeem, reclaim, and restore what was stolen from us and threatened to harm us.
My son is still autistic.
He is also wonderfully made, created for a plan and a purpose, and destined to glorify God.
My son is simply that, my son. And if that is all he ever is or achieves, that is more than enough for me. There is nothing he can ever do or accomplishment to make me love him more or be more proud of him.
He is my son. He is a gift.
And I’m just privileged to be the gift-keeper.