There is a game we play called Autism.
It’s a game that tells us all how we must feel about Autism and what we must say about it. It’s a game where we all must pretend to like Autism. We must pretend that it’s a gift. We must say it’s beautiful. We must celebrate it.
People who don’t play the game get verbally crucified. They get viciously attacked.
It’s an odd game though, one that is reserved particularly for Autism.
Those whose children have Down’s Syndrome don’t have to play this game. Those whose children are in have Cerebral Palsy, Dravet Syndrome or Trisomy 18 don’t have to play this game.
They can be real. They can say it’s hard. They don’t have to pretend to be happy about their child’s disability.
It seems that today, we only want to see one face of Autism. We want to know about those people with Autism who may be a bit awkward, but can still become surgeons at a hospital called St. Bonaventure.
But shouldn’t everyone on the spectrum have a voice?
Shouldn’t everyone who has Autism have a face in the public square? Shouldn’t the high functioning, the moderate, and the severe all be seen and heard?
Why is it that we only want to make a TV hit series about certain kinds of Autism?
What we don’t want to know about is the darker side of Autism.
We don’t want to know about the type of Autism where grown men wear diapers and spin plates all day. We don’t want to know about the kind of Autism where non-verbal children smear poop and self harm. We don’t want to see that kind of Autism. We are afraid to look upon it.
That kind of Autism scares us.
So we play the game. We toe the party line. But some of us can’t play the game. We can’t toe the party line. We can’t pretend.
We can’t pretend because our kind of Autism is too real. It’s too raw.
It’s too heartbreaking and brutal and difficult.
So we remain silent. We can’t pretend that Autism is a gift. We can’t pretend that Autism is beautiful. We can’t celebrate it. We just can’t.
We can’t celebrate it because our children will never become doctors.
Our children may never even learn to tie their shoes or dress themselves. In some cases our children may never even utter a single word.
Most of our children will never marry, never go to college and never live independantly.
They will never have a real job. Some of our children may never learn to read, or even learn to count to ten. Many of our children will never drive a car or even learn basic self-care.
We see the struggles our children face. Struggles that most of us could never even fathom.
So we can’t play the Autism game. We can’t pretend that Autism is all sugar and roses.
We can’t pretend because we love our children too much to invalidate their struggles.
We love them too much to pretend that Autism is a gift, when it has taken so much from them.
We can’t pretend because we have walked with them. We have sat with them and wept with them through countless sleepless nights.
We have seen the suffering Autism has brought into their everyday lives, and we have suffered with them.
I once sat in the kitchen with a dear friend whose severely Autistic son at that time was non-verbal. She told me with tears in her eyes that she didn’t know if she would ever hear him say Mama.
She didn’t know if she would ever hear him say, I love you.
I’ve seen the desperate face of a heartbroken mother as she drove her adult diapered son to an institutionalized care home because her son had become too aggressive to keep at home.
How do we tell these women that Autism is beautiful? That it’s a gift?
We can’t we can’t tell them Autism is beautiful, because for many of us, it’s not.
To many of us, Autism is a Dark Thief that has only brought sorrow and difficulty to our beloved children.
So we don’t celebrate Autism. We don’t play the game. We don’t call Autism beautiful. We don’t toe the party line. We don’t say Autism is a gift. We can’t. We just can’t pretend for their sakes. The pain is too real. The sorrow too deep.
But you know what we do celebrate?
We celebrate our children.
We call them beautiful.
We tell them they are gifts.
Because they are.
The high functioning. The moderate. The severe. Every single one of them.
We will celebrate our children because every one of them is a beautiful gift from the Father to us.
A gift to me.
A gift to you.
A gift to the world.
They remind us to see the world from our Father’s eyes. Eyes that see not our abilities,or lack of, but eyes that remember we are valuable because we are created in the image of God.
They keep us humble. They remind us that it could have been us.
It could have been me.
It could have been you.
We could have been born with a disability. But for the grace of God.
Our ASD children remind us that “not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” (1 Cor. 1:26-27)
They remind us that every one of us are valued by God not because of what we can or cannot do, but because of who He is.
Our Great God.
The God who makes all things beautiful in His time. The God who calls those things that are not as though they were.
The God who is in this. Even in this.
So we don’t play the game. We don’t pretend. We don’t toe the party line.
Instead we walk. We fight. We pray. We cry.
We walk beside our children. Every single day. Every single moment. We fight for them. We pray for them. We cry with them.
And we remember that Jesus wept. And we know that Jesus sees our tears and theirs. Every one. He sees our children, though the world may not. He knows them. He loves them.
They are His gifts.
They are beautiful.
And we celebrate them.
“You number my wanderings. Put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” Psalm 56:8
“For you formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13,14