When Autism is a Gift in Disguise

When Autism is a Gift in Disguise

by Victor Velez

My wife and I received a gift twelve years ago – a baby boy we named Jacob. We had a great life. We were happily married and working in full-time ministry when Jacob joined our family.

Jacob

Our little guy was amazing. He wasn’t even two years old and he knew all his colors, the names of animals, and he could count to ten. Proud daddy that I was, I knew he was well on his way to being the first doctor in the family.

We were on top of the world, feeling as though nothing could trip us up in this awesome race that we were running.

Then one day, we noticed that all the speech that our son was using was rapidly decreasing. We tried to think that it wasn’t a big deal. After all he was just a baby.

On a routine doctor’s visit we were first introduced to the idea that something may not be quite right with our perfect son. We were referred to a specialist who could monitor him in a social situation. They said they wanted to see how he reacted in a room full of “normally” developing children.

As we watched our son through the window, without the doctor even saying the words, we knew something was wrong. The pain was so unbearable, so deep, that we could barely talk on the drive home.

Autism.

How can this be God? We are in full-time ministry. We didn’t have time for Autism!

I have to admit that I was very angry at God. “Why would you allow this to happen to us? We’ve spent our lives serving you God, and autism is what you give us in return?”

Our plans, hopes and dreams for our son lay shattered around our feet. Were they broken forever? I wondered.

After a very short bout with self-pity, we asked God to forgive us and to help us help our son. We realized that we needed to be pro-active, so we took a class about autism so we could better understand how to help Jacob.

Honestly, this was a very dark time in our lives, though we were determined to do all we could to help Jacob. We truly felt as if all of our dreams had been shattered.

Like most people we had awesome plans for our lives. These dreams and goals almost never include the “What If’s” in life, do they?

For us, just a sentence — four words from the mouth of the doctor: “Your son is autistic” — tripped up our lives. Autism had invaded our lives forever.

If you are in a like situation, it is okay to fall when life trips you up. We did, but then you have to get up. Dust yourself off and with God’s help, face it.

Autism awareness is more common today. It is mainly due to the number of children affected. And a few famous families have had autism invade their lives as well.

The most important thing you can do as a parent facing autism is to arm yourself with knowledge. Many resources are available to educate you about this disorder.

Getting your child help as soon as possible is so important. We were fortunate to catch this neurological disorder early, so our son has been exposed to treatment and specialized services since before his second birthday. This was critical to his successful development throughout childhood.

I believe the biggest battle parents have when dealing with Autism is getting over the initial shock. As parents, we tend to take the diagnosis personal. This is a natural reaction. But getting stuck in our personal pity party can delay the critical early intervention that can set our special children on a path to a more productive future.

Believe it or not, autism is not the end of the world. The Lord has been so faithful. We have learned so much about the love and mercy and patience of God through the life of this young man, Jacob. I wouldn’t trade him for any child in the world.

We are fortunate that today there are so many resources and advocacy groups and programs that can help parents who may be struggling with “what to do with this autistic child.” We had to learn a whole lot, and fast. If it weren’t for our faith in God and all the help we found, we would not have made it. In the toughest times, God gave my wife and me supernatural strength and unity.

And now we have hope for an amazingly bright future ahead for our son. We love the gift of our son.

LEARN THE SIGNS OF AUTISM

The following red flags may indicate your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder. If your child exhibits any of the following, please don’t delay in asking your pediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation:

  •        No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by 6 months or thereafter
  •        No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by 9 months
  •        No babbling by 12 months
  •        No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by 12 months
  •        No words by 16 months
  •        No meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months
  •        Any loss of speech, babbling, or social skills at any age

Did you know …

  •        Autism now affects 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys
  •        Autism prevalence figures are growing
  •        More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes & cancer combined
  •        Boys are four times more likely than girls to have autism
  •        There is no medical detection or cure for autism

These facts and more at www.autismspeaks.org

Dancing with Max

Meet a remarkable young man.

Max doesn’t communicate like we do. But he communicates better than we do about the most important things. Max doesn’t think like we do. But his actions reflect deep spiritual truths.

With honesty and humor, Emily Colson shares about her personal battles and heartbreak when, as a suddenly single mother, she discovers her only child has autism. Emily’s writing will make you laugh, cry, and inspire you to face your own challenges

Available online at www.emilycolson.com or amazon.com

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