Friday, April 27, 2018

Serving Individuals With Special Needs



The CDC just announced an almost 15% increase in the prevalence of autism at 1 in 59 kids.  With a staggering number like that it’s likely that you know someone affected by ASD.  As churches grow and seek to increase the kingdom of God, hopefully that will mean your church’s special needs population will grow as well.  I currently attend a small church plan in New Caney, TX and right now we do not have a special needs ministry as there is not a need yet.  However, one day there will be, God willing, and I know that our church family will welcome these individuals with open arms.  Your church may already have a special needs ministry and especially because the need will likely grow, I want to encourage you to serve those with special needs. 

Working with individuals with special needs can be challenging to say the least.  To say anything else just simply wouldn’t be true.  One of my son’s therapist once told me that she could only work part-time because the job was so emotionally demanding of her.  She’s very passionate about working with individuals on the autism spectrum and has a very upbeat personality.  But being “on” all the time is hard.  I don’t know about the demands of all special needs and disabilities, but I know with autism there are times of extreme joy and then times where things aren’t so great.  There are intense lows and with communication barriers, those lows are hard to navigate.  So why, knowing this, would anyone willingly offer to volunteer in a special needs ministry if they don’t have friends or family affected by disability? 

The Bible offers several reasons.  In Luke 14:12-14 Jesus says, “when you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid.  But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.  For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

Jesus is describing the type of loving kindness that truly requires nothing in return.  Serving individuals with special needs may not bring instant gratification.  You may not get to hear about the children you serve turning their life over to Lord or singing praise songs just like other kids.  Serving individuals that may not be able to care for themselves in even the simplest ways may not be the most admired or prestigious form of service and you may not see the fruit of your efforts immediately, but I believe that this form of service is an essential part of being the hands and feet of Christ.  Believers are to demonstrate this radical love for people with disabilities and the poor and to any of those that cannot repay them because Jesus shows us that self-denying and self-sacrificial service is God honoring.  Jesus says that those are the times you will store blessings in Heaven. Matthew 25:40 says, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me'. Remember as you share the Gospel with the child that can’t sit still, or a child that is flapping and swaying, that you are loving them as you would Jesus.  It may be more difficult to serve in an area that can be challenging physically and emotionally, but its in those times that you serve when it is messy and ugly and hard that you will be blessed.

Typically, special needs families are coming in to a church longing for a sense of welcome and belonging.  They want a place that they can worship and feel that their children are safe and not a burden.  I urge you to see and serve these families as though you are viewing them through the lens of Christ and not man.  While the world says they are less-than or second rate, the Lord, in His sovereignty, has created them in His image and exactly how he wanted them.  I love when the Lord speaks to Moses and says in Exodus 4:11, "Who has made man's mouth?  Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind?  Is it not I, the Lord?" WOW.  God has a plan for each and every member of the body.  He has a special plan for His people, both you and I and the individuals with special needs in our church body.  If you are looking for a meaningful way to serve the Lord, won’t you consider helping in the special needs ministry? 

“12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,yet one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-16




Monday, April 2, 2018

Encouragement in a Church Without a Special Needs Ministry


My husband and I are very blessed to be a part of a church plant in New Caney, Texas.  We came from a church in Atascocita with a faithful Pastor who had a vision to start planting autonomous churches within the greater Houston area.  That church had many missions minded ministries, one of which included the special needs ministry that my son was able to be a part of.  

My youngest of three children, Jacob, has severe autism.  He is almost 8 and has minimal speech, elopes from safety, and cannot attend to a Bible Study for 20 minutes.  Having a buddy system to help him behaviorally and to keep him safe as well as having curriculum adjusted to his needs was an enormous help to us.

So, when we stepped out in faith to follow a preacher that we didn’t know to a church plant that didn’t have a special needs ministry yet or enough volunteers for it, I was a little nervous for Jacob.  Nevertheless, we felt like the Lord wanted us to go, so we followed with eager anticipation to see the Gospel spread through our new Pastor and church.

Being a special needs parent can be pretty isolating at times.  We can’t go to peoples’ homes and attend events very often because of how much anxiety it causes my son.  Even standing in the lobby visiting with people can be hard when my son is trying to dart away.

However, when it came time for our church to start hosting Bible Studies in homes, our Pastor urged us to host one in our home.  This has been a spring of so much encouragement for us.  People come to our home every week and worship God and fellowship despite my son’s frequent interruptions of song and humming.  They laugh if he runs through the room full speed or when he takes a swig of their water or climbs in someone’s lap that he barely knows.  They don’t mind the sounds of every object in the house spinning in the background.  They even understand that we have to deadbolt them in our house with a key to prevent him from wandering outside.

These people coming into our home and seeing our wild and unusual life and still being joyful and present is so encouraging.  We feel connected in a deep and meaningful way.  Being a part of a small group has grown our faith tremendously as we pray for others and as they pray for us.  There have been times of profound sadness and stress when all I could do was cry and ask for prayer and they all stopped and prayed over us.  There have been moments of joy and triumph that we got to celebrate with them and those friendships have strengthened. 

What I’ve seen time and time again is that God is faithful.  He has provided encouragement for us in a way that we weren’t expecting, and we are so thankful for His provision.  God is so good.  We are so thankful.  I pray you find this type of encouragement in your local church.  People who love the Lord with all their heart will love and accept your family no matter how different.  I pray you find believers that can strengthen your faith and that you can serve alongside. 

This month is autism awareness month. With 1 in 68 children diagnosed, most likely you know someone affected by autism.  I urge you to reach out to them.  If you are inspired to find ways to encourage special needs families here are some helpful tips that I have experienced at my church:



  • ·         Encourage them to join a small group or bible study and to share their hardships and victories.  Pray for them and celebrate with them.
  • ·         If their child cannot be in the Worship Center, create a buddy system where people take turns caring for their child in Bible Study, so they can be free to worship.
  • ·         Show excitement rather than dismay when their child arrives at church, especially if their child is engaging in behavior that seems odd or different.
  • ·         Look at their child in the eyes and say hello. You may be surprised at how many people turn away instead of looking at individuals with special needs.
  • ·         Encourage your children to engage with special needs children.  I promise it will bless them and grow them.
  • ·         Go to them if you see them isolating themselves.  I find myself sitting alone with Jacob when he is having a hard day because I don’t want to disturb people. 
  • ·         Ask them how you can pray for them and then PRAY.
 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Hope in the “secret world of autism”

This week I watched a video that went viral of an autism Mom sharing about what so many of us feel. The “secret world of autism” is extraordinarily difficult for me at times. So much of what she said spoke straight to my heart. But, there was one thing she mentioned that really struck me. She said that at some point she let her guard down enough to actually pray, but that praying to God does nothing.  It was heartbreaking to hear her say that and even more heartbreaking to see people within the autism community sharing her post and some saying they felt the same. 11 million views later and all that I can think of is how badly I want them to know the truth.  I want them to know that God is faithful even through autism.  

So many people turn to God after their child is diagnosed or when their child’s behavior has gotten so severe that “you realize it’s the last time your life will ever be normal” as the lady explained. 

Our family hit that point last weekend on a trip out town. We realized that short “easy” road trips or our kids basketball games or eating out were never going to be easy again. Through the screams and kicks and panicking, my husband and I looked at each other and without words we both knew...life was never going to be “normal”.  

But the problem with only turning to God at that point is that sometimes we treat God as if He exists for us and not the other way around.  We pray as if, in our time of need, God is waiting to perform miracles and tasks for us like a genie in the sky.  Don’t get me wrong, he absolutely does want to hear from us.  He does want us to come to Him in our desperation, but not just to make our lives perfect or easier.  First, we need a relationship with Him and then we come to Him because He alone can sustain us.   When we seek God solely to fix our problems, we will always end up disappointed.  We must trust God with our lives first, but that doesn’t mean to stop praying for our children.  He can work miracles. He does answer prayers, but sometimes the answer is no. Either way, as His child He WILL work all things for our good and His glory.  We trust Him because we know that God is good and has the bigger picture in mind.

The video made me see that so many people  are needing hope and truth and compassion.  

I know from experience that Autism parents love sharing their journey and their struggles, not for pity, but for a single moment of understanding from others or just to know that people care. Living in such difficult circumstances isolates you from the world.  Knowing that someone cares can be such an encouragement. As Christians, I pray we become intentional about reaching out to families that are extremely isolated, sometimes even  without a church home that can minister to their special needs children. I pray more churches begin ministries that are open to individuals with disabilities.

Most of all, I want Autism families to know that the hope God has to offer and the joy you can have in Christ far exceeds the difficulty of your circumstances. Our hope is in the eternal future with Him in perfect peace not our temporary situation. 
We are cut off from God because of our sin.  God is holy and perfect and we are not. Because of this, we cannot be in right relationship with him.  The Bible says the punishment for our sin is death and eternal separation from God. But God sent his son, Jesus, to live a perfect life, die on the cross, and rise again to pay the punishment for our sin on our behalf.  If you believe this and you surrender your life to Jesus, you can be reconciled with God in this life and for eternity. The peace of being made right with God never leaves you. The hope of eternity with God and his faithfulness is more than enough to carry you through this life and all the trials it brings. Our family will always look different from the “normal”.  We may always be dealing with extreme tantrums, lack of speech, bouts of obsessive spinning and rocking and slamming doors. We experience the stress of elopement and of not knowing how to help him when he is having anxiety in public and we have felt the burden of extreme financial strain due to therapy. Nevertheless, we still have joy and we still have peace. The stressors that are inevitable with autism don’t hold us captive.  Each day we find joy and humor and we start again fresh knowing that God is in control and this is only temporary. 

So I encourage you to surrender your life to Jesus.  Only the Lord can give you a peace that surpasses all understanding. A peace that surpasses the stress of autism. 


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

New words, new races, new tantrums, OH MY!

There have been so many new changes with sweet Jakey lately.  He is talking independently much more now.  The other night Cret was holding him trying to get him to watch a movie with us, instead of spinning plates loudly in the living room, and Jacob announced, “I don’t want to! I want to go play!”  It was pretty amazing.  He is becoming more vocal and showing us his funny personality.  He is dancing more, reading more, and even adding and subtracting.  He also just ran his very first 1 mile race with the Miracle League and loved it! However, with this new and fantastic independence comes full on tantrums and stubbornness.  When we are somewhere that is too loud, he will make it known that he cannot handle it and there is absolutely nothing that will calm him down.  When his bedtime routine is out of order, he will scream and try to kick and bite me and it takes a very long time to calm him.  He’s always been such a laid-back kid, so these new outbursts are pretty shocking to the fam.  But, with the good comes some bad and we are making progress which is very hopeful.

We recently received the results of the IQ and cognitive evaluation for Jacob.  The results were much worse than we expected, and it hit Cret and I pretty hard.  We see him making so much progress and in some ways he seems far above his age.  I guess we were expecting to hear all of these glorious things about him.  Unfortunately, those tests mostly show deficits.  And in Jacob’s case, most of the tests showed extreme deficits.  In addition to a full detailed devastating description of all the deficits, they gave Jacob new diagnoses. They diagnosed him with autism with accompanying language impairment and accompanying intellectual impairment, ADHD, Language Disorder, Speech Sound Disorder, and Developmental Coordination Disorder.  They would’ve diagnosed him with Selective Mutism, however, based on diagnostic criteria right now any individual with autism cannot also be diagnosed with that.  Its very strange because most doctors believe you can have both, just as you can have autism and ADHD, but that’s another story. 

It was not the news we wanted to hear.  His percentiles were lower than I could’ve imagined and the news hit me like a ton of bricks.  I found out later that it hit my husband pretty hard, too.  He is such a lovely husband to me.  I try to be really strong and educated and helpful when it comes to Jacob’s disability.  Nevertheless, that night as I read the results he said he could see it in my eyes that I just couldn’t hold it together, so he held it together for me.  He read the results and came to me and reassured me, while inside he was feeling crushed.  Only later did he tell me that he cried, too.  I feel so fortunate that God blessed me and our family with my husband.  He does so much for us, there is just no way that I deserve him. 

The next day, a therapist kindly reminded us that while this test was hard to read, it was for his benefit because now we know what to work on.  Also, the test only focuses on what he can’t do, we must remember to always focus on what he CAN do.  I loved that reminder. 

They still believe insurance will begin cutting his ABA hours this summer, so we have been teaching him academics at home.  We are in this strange waiting period right now.  We don’t know what the future holds for Jacob’s therapy and education and we honestly can’t decide what to do next.  So that leaves us here…with either worry or trust. 

God has provided for Jacob so many times, yet I still struggle with waiting and trusting; waiting to see what the Lord has in store for Jacob and for our family.  I wanted to know all the answers immediately.  I want to know how independent Jacob will be when he is older, I want to know if he will have a job, go to a typical school, talk to me like my other kids, get married, have friendships... I want to know what all these stupid terrible test scores mean in the big picture. I want to know now and I don’t want to wait.  And that impatience leads me to doubt and worry and fear instead of trust, knowing that God has put me here right now in this place of waiting for a reason.  I’ve been struggling with this for a while now, but I want to let it go.  So, today I am choosing to surrender my impatience to the Lord.  I may have to choose to do that every single morning because it is so doggone hard, but I want to be faithful in waiting. I want to live life believing that what God has in store for us is better than what my measly brain thinks needs to happen.  I want to be able to wait patiently, even forever, knowing that my hope is in the Lord and not my desired outcome.
 

And when life throws crazy test results at us, and we mourn, I want to run to the Lord in prayer instead of to myself and my worry.  God is so good and today I will choose to trust in Him.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."



Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Wisdom

Cret and I have been reading a lot about wisdom together lately.  We have been praying for wisdom for our lives, our marriage, our family and for Jacob’s future.  Issues came up recently with Jacob’s insurance that left us uncertain about therapy for him.  For now, insurance has granted us 6 more months of full-time therapy and indicated they would begin cutting hours after that.  We don’t know what the future holds for Jacob regarding his education and functioning, so it’s hard to have a concrete plan. 

Jacob is very bright and soars through his goals at the clinic.  They are asking me what our plan is for him when he graduates from ABA.  He is so smart, but the hard thing is that his behavior and his anxiety (selective mutism) are his main obstacles.  That causes our decision for either public school, private school, home school or an autism school to be very difficult to determine.  It’s hard to know what’s right for him and to plan accordingly.  He is growing and becoming more opinionated, which is good because it's typical, but hard because he still lacks a sense of danger. 

Saturday, we had a day full of soccer.  Jordan and Tyler had a huge tournament and Cret was the coach for both teams.  It was supposed to be a pleasant day, but it turned out to be really hard.  At our first game, I had Jacob and two chairs as we walked out to the field to sit down.  The wind started blowing hard and it upset Jacob terribly.  He started to wail around and make bloodcurdling noises.  Then he wouldn’t walk or let me hold him and started dragging his head on the ground.  It was a tantrum like no other.  I tried to calm him down and talk to him, but the wind kept blowing and he kept screaming.  Finally, I had to drop everything and sit down right there on the ground by the parking lot and hold him in my lap squeezing him while he screamed for 5 minutes.  I can’t even imagine what it looked like to all the people staring at us, but no one offered to help carry the chairs.  They all just stared.  I really don’t blame them, the noises coming out of Jacob were something from a horror movie.  However, it did make me think about how nice it would’ve been in that moment if someone had offered to carry our chairs to the field.  His behavior carried on into the day as the wind would pick up.  He tried to rip off his shirt, kick me and kept rubbing his head on the ground.  But the worst was when we were walking to the parking lot after a game and tons of cars were leaving and he darted away from me as fast as he could to head in between two cars towards the road.  His hand slipped out of mine and in a panic, I leaped at him and fell, but just in time I caught his foot and he tripped and hit his head on the concrete.  We both got pretty scratched up and I hurt my knee, but I was able to grab him and hold him as he cried from the fall.  He would’ve been hit by a car and I am so thankful God protected him.  He didn’t even get a scratch on his head because his massive headphones took the pounding. 

It was a challenging day.  Part of me just wanted to go home and cry.  I got in the car and prayed for our service dog to come soon.  I can’t imagine life with a dog that could help Jacob to function in public and remain safe.  It will certainly be a blessing to us.  

With all the choices, and all the major decisions coming up, and all the stressful situations we are in, we know for sure that we need God’s guidance and wisdom.  In Proverbs, it tells us wisdom is something that we need to gain and seek continually.  Through reading scripture, prayer, and understanding we ought to seek wisdom so that we can keep our mind and our actions focused on God.   We have to hold tightly to wisdom.  Wisdom is one of God’s gifts to help us walk the straight path and prevent us from stumbling.  I need wisdom to focus more on God and less on me and Jacob and upsetting situations that are inevitable.  I need wisdom to help me from sinning and living in worry and anxiety and to have real peace regardless of stressful situations.   I need wisdom to be a better witness for the Lord.  It’s really hard for me to stay focused on what’s important, especially when things get rough and my knee gets all busted up and insurance tries to ruin our lives.  But, all of those things seem really small when God reminds me of what I need to concentrate on.  

Today, amongst other things, I am praying for God’s wisdom in our lives as we navigate it all.  I pray the Lord will guide us to make good decisions that honor him and to help us walk in a way that is pleasing Him.  I am so thankful for the peace that God gives us when our minds are fixed on Him.

Proverbs 3:1-8
1My son, do not forget my teaching,
    but let your heart keep my commandments,
2 for length of days and years of life
    and peace they will add to you.
3 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
    bind them around your neck;
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 So you will find favor and good success[a]
    in the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8 It will be healing to your flesh[b]
    and refreshment[c] to your bones. 
Proverbs 3:13-18
13 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
    and the one who gets understanding,
14 for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
    and her profit better than gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels,
    and nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
    in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
    and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
    those who hold her fast are called blessed.
Proverbs 4:1-9
 Hear, O sons, a father's instruction,
    and be attentive, that you may gain[a] insight,
2 for I give you good precepts;
    do not forsake my teaching.
3 When I was a son with my father,
    tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,
4 he taught me and said to me,
“Let your heart hold fast my words;
    keep my commandments, and live.
5 Get wisdom; get insight;
    do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
6 Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
    love her, and she will guard you.
7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,
    and whatever you get, get insight.
8 Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
    she will honor you if you embrace her.
9 She will place on your head a graceful garland;
    she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”



Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Guest Blog by Kelly Tatera from Action Behavior Centers

Mom and Nonverbal Son with Autism Win Jimmy Fallon’s “Say Mama” Video Contest

[Guest Post for Allison Hill]

Jimmy Fallon is known to engage his fans with his video contests, and his latest contest winner brought light to a topic that deserves more attention: nonverbal autism.

The video competition challenged viewers to send in the most adorable videos of their babies saying “Mama.” Fallon and staff likely expected to receive exactly what they’d asked for, but one unlikely video submission stood out among them all: Kate Swenson and her 7-year-old son, Cooper, who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

In the video, Swenson explains why her son couldn’t participate in the video competition in the same way as other children, but how he is just as special.

“He loves trains. He’s smart and he’s funny and he’s loving, and Cooper is also autistic and nonverbal,” Swenson says. “I was told at a very young age that I should prepare to never hear Cooper’s voice, and that’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to expect.”

Swenson believes that her son’s voice would be just as sweet as any of the other babies seen in the video contest. She showcases her son’s speech device – the Proloquo2Go system for iPads from Talk to Me Technologies – and Cooper pushes a button which recites “Mama” in a computerized voice.

Being nonverbal is common among children with ASD, but it doesn’t mean the speech delay will last a lifetime. In fact, one study found that the majority of children who are nonverbal at the age of 4 go on to overcome their severe language delays.

The study looked at a sample of 535 children with ASD and categorized them into groups based on whether they had the ability to speak in only single words, small phrases, or more fluent phrases. After analyzing data on these children, the researchers found that 70 percent of the kids achieved simple phrase speech by 8 years old, and almost half of the sample (47 percent) achieved fluent speech.

For parents with a nonverbal child on the spectrum, these findings serve as a science-backed beacon of hope that they may one day hear their children communicate verbally.

Swenson’s number one goal with her video submission was to show the world a more positive side to autism. She says people often express sympathy after hearing that Cooper has autism, but she doesn’t need the sympathy. “I say, ‘No, he’s the coolest kid you will ever meet.’”

“I just really want autism to be a part of the conversation,” she says. “I want the world to see that it’s not scary and it’s not sad.”

(Please click on the infographic to get a better view)



Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Don't Hide From the World




As Jacob is growing, we are having to discover new ways to teach him, new methods for rewards and punishments and new ways to include him into everyday activities.  Jacob is silly and energetic, but he also suffers from extreme anxiety with a capital A.  This is something that I have been struggling with lately.  I’ve heard of people that have anxiety or OCD from traumatic events, but when a child who has had a typical upbringing is anxious it’s very confusing.  It’s as confusing as autism. 

Anxiety is common within the autism community.  The statistics say somewhere around 40%.  I have been doing some research in medical journals in my free time and have read several theories backed by some mainstream medical professionals.  Anxiety could be linked to his atypical sensory function, inability understanding and labeling emotions, intolerance of uncertainty (having a hard time with ambiguity), and last they are looking into the “role of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in regulating emotional response, in connection with limbic and insula-based networks, and suggest that disrupted integration in these networks underlies difficulties with habituation to strong emotional stimuli, which results in an enhanced perception of threat in many people with ASD” (South, M., & Rodgers, J. (2017). Sensory, Emotional and Cognitive Contributions to Anxiety in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience).

All of that basically means that his anxiety likely derives from his disability and not from something bad that’s happened to him, which I already knew, but somehow it doesn’t make it any easier.  Not to mention, I don’t know how to help him.  

We recently started considering behavioral therapy techniques to help with this anxiety in public.  His clinic has already implemented treatment for his issues with wearing shorts, talking to certain kids that make him nervous, talking in certain rooms, etc.  Some people don’t realize that the reason why we often can’t take Jacob to friends’ houses is because he gets very very nervous in new places.  Sometimes the iPad will suffice, but other times his desire to run in circles, opening doors and drawers, turning on lights, and jumping on furniture in a fury is so strong that only Cret can hold him and its exhausting.  He gets nervous like this on the baseball field, too.  He loves getting on his baseball uniform and asks to go to his game, but most times he fights or screams at his buddy and tries to run off, lays on the field or in the dugout and refuses to cooperate.  It’s hard to know what to do in those situations.  I don’t want people to feel uncomfortable, but I want him to have those experiences so we can work on them.

 His therapists wanted to see this in action, so they recently came to a friend’s house to watch what he would do at a new place.  They asked me not to bring any toys or electronics and as I expected, it was wild. He ran all around and totally invaded their privacy.  I instantly regretted going there.  Both BCBAs said they had never experienced that and would have to research an intervention plan, but that ABA (behavioral intervention) was the proper method for helping him with this behavior.  I left feeling absolutely dreadful and embarrassed.  Maybe it wasn’t the biggest deal, maybe it was.  They were very gracious to me and didn't make me feel like they were upset at all.  I guess allowing people to see what we go through just felt scary.  It’s extremely humbling to allow people to have that kind of look inside autism.  Most of the time autism isn’t pretty.  It isn’t a genius child that has some amazing artistic ability.  It is repeatedly screaming, running, self-mutilating, poop-smearing, taking off clothes, rituals, etc.  In other words, it’s hard.

At church and at baseball and at friends’ houses, I sometimes find myself feeling self-pity and sadness or jealousy of “normal”.   I want to bring my kids somewhere and just sit down and relax and chat with the grown-ups, but I can’t.  But I don’t want those feelings holding me captive.  I decided to just go to Scripture again for rest and peace and guidance.  I don’t know how I am supposed to look at his anxiety.  I verbally share the Gospel with Jacob word for word.  I ask him if he wants to know about Jesus and he always responds “yes”, but quickly loses focus.  It may sound silly because he isn’t understanding speech at that level, but I know the Gospel is for him just like it is for everyone.  I sing praise songs to him and we pray together.  But yet, his anxiety is still very real.  His behaviors are very real.  We go to church and I can’t help but feel embarrassed when he disrupts service and I have to walk out.  I know other autism families feel the same, even more so.

I wanted to share what I have been reading. In Romans 15:1-2 it reads “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.”

And Ephesians 4:15-16 says, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

What I am praying is that the Lord will lead Cret and I in such a way that we are “working properly” or in other words seeking Him and His will in all things, so that even with our circumstances, we can help the body grow in love...so that even if Jacob is being loud and disruptive, I will know that God has a place for us there.  I pray that we can be examples of leaning on God in our utter and complete weakness.  We have no sure answers as to how to handle autism, all we can do is rely on the Father and the sufficiency of His grace despite autism.  I pray that those who encounter our “weakness” will see God’s great strength. 

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9


So if you’re anything like me and you want to curl up in a ball and never leave the house again to hide from the sometimes kind and sometimes cruel world out there… don’t hide, autism families.  Let the world see you and your child.  Allow God to use you.  Allow the world to see your weakness, the ugly, the hard, but also to see the joy you have despite those weaknesses that comes only from the Lord.  Let them see the ongoing hurts and struggles and let them see God walking you through them pointing them to Christ and future hope.  I hope that I can be more bold in this way for the Lord.