ParentLife Oct, 2018 article

Facing the Unexpected: One parent’s story of having a child diagnosed with autism.
By: Amanda West
Published by: LifeWay Publications, October 2018.
 
 
John 9: 1-3 “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be manifest in him.”
 
In December 2016 my then ten-year-old son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
 
If you would have told me the day he was born, or even, years later, that a doctor would use those words to describe my son, I wouldn’t have believed you.  He was born full-term, weighing 8 ½ pounds. I fell in love with him the minute my nurse handed him to me and I saw the deep dimples pressed into each of his chubby cheeks.
 
He met all of the “milestones” set by the American Academy of Pediatrics, he enrolled in pre-K and knew all of his colors, shapes and alphabet. But, looking back there were signs we had missed. Instead of pushing his cars or trucks across the rug like his big brother, he lined them up, organizing them by size or color. He repeated the sounds of characters he heard on television programs instead of answering in his own voice sometimes, but I quickly dismissed these behaviors as him just being immature, or as being silly.
 
The last week of kindergarten before summer break he broke his leg in two places while jumping on a trampoline in our backyard. Yet, he never cried or moaned in pain. He spent the entire summer learning to walk again. By the time, he was in first grade he stopped enjoying touch. If anyone touched him (with the exception of me), he became stiff and rigid or he would cry out in pain. He developed phobias of bugs, germs, or textures like beach sand touching him or scratchy fabric.
 
At some point before first grade and the time of his diagnosis, he began stimming (this can look like hand flapping, jumping up and down, or repetitive movements.)
 
Still, I wasn’t ready to believe my child had a disorder. It had taken my husband and I five years to have our first child, and after suffering through three miscarriages I had finally gotten pregnant with him. He was the child I had prayed for day after day, year after year.
 
So, why would God give us an “imperfect” child after all of that waiting and loss? Had he somehow made a mistake?
 
Sadly, autism numbers are on the rise. In the 1980’s it was reported as 1 in every 10,000, but as of April 26, 2018 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 1 in 59 children are now considered on the spectrum. In fact, the numbers are higher for boys with 1 in 37 being diagnosed and 1 in every 151 girls.
 
So, what does this mean exactly?
 
Why am I telling you this?
 
Well, I’m sharing this with you because chances are, you or someone you know has or will have a child on the spectrum. 
 
As a parent, or grandparent you know your child better than anyone. If you feel like something isn’t right, make a list of your child’s behavior and share it with your child’s pediatrician.
 
Autism is a “spectrum disorder” so there are differing degrees of symptoms and not every child will display all of them. If your child has already been diagnosed, please know you are not alone in this. It’s important to reach out to others who understand what you are going through. Find an online support group or if one is not available start one at your local church.
 
Psalms 119:71 says “It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I might learn Your statutes.” This verse, John 9:1-3 and others similar to them throughout the bible, teach that God doesn’t give us children with special needs because he wants to punish or hurt us.
 
In fact, through the lives of these children He can teach us some of the most profound lessons. There will be challenging days, but there will be rewards as well.
 
In the end, I wouldn’t trade my son for anything in the world, after all, HE is my world!

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