April is National Autism Awareness Month. Autism is a condition which is now thought to affect a staggering 1 in 88 children. With so many parents and families affected by an increasing rate of autism, we wanted to highlight a few stories this week on Orange Parents, not only to bring HOPE to those families but to remind the rest of us to be an encouragement and support for them.
Guest post by Sandra Peoples
One of the hardest parts of being the mom of a special needs child is the unknowable future. Even when the child is progressing (and our son is) you don’t know if it’s enough. You don’t even know what enough is.
Our son was diagnosed with autism soon after he turned three years old. The team who evaluated and diagnosed him said, “He’s so cute! He’ll be fun to work with and we’re sure he’ll make progress.” But “progress” is a very loosely defined word in the autism world. Autism is called a spectrum disorder, because each person with autism has it to a different degree. And next year as the changes to the DSM-V take effect, the differences between two children with the diagnosis of “autism” will be even greater when the Asperger’s and PDD-NOS subcategories are eliminated.
Instead of laughing at the time to come, like the Proverbs 31 woman (Prov. 31:25), some days I feel like I can’t breathe with the weight of the unknown. And friends (wonderful, empathetic friends) say “Don’t focus on the future. You don’t know what could happen.” But I do know what could happen. When I call my parents’ house my thirty-three year old sister (who has Down Syndrome) answers the phone. Because she lives there.
Thirty years ago my mom was looking ahead to an unknowable future. And I think she would say it isn’t as bad as she imagined. Lives evolve, dreams change, and parents do what they have to do. God is faithful.
The Proverbs 31 woman went through her day like I do—just doing the next thing. And when she paused to think about the time to come, she laughed. I don’t think she laughed because she saw a life of ease. Even in the stress of the day and the worry of tomorrow, she purposefully chose to laugh. She had no control over the future, but she trusted the God who does.
I also have a choice—believe the truth that God loves me, loves my son, and is working for our good, or don’t believe. Cry about the unknown, or laugh that the future is unknown to me but not to God. I must make that choice today, tomorrow, and each day He gives me.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life . . . But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:25 & 33-34).
Sandra Peoples is a pastor’s wife and mom to two boys, with one more coming home soon via adoption. She is the author of the e-book, Speechless: Finding God’s Grace in My Son’s Autism. You can learn more about her journey with her son’s autism on Facebook.