Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, one of my favorite days of the year. Easter—like autism—means different things to many people: different religious beliefs, traditions, customs, and rituals. This month being National Autism Awareness Month, we’ve celebrated the differences of autism more than any other month of the year. Celebrating the differences has been eye-opening and educational for many, but let’s not for a moment lose site of the common element we all need to share…faith.
Fourteen years ago, my husband and I were waiting to adopt a second child. In September of that year, the local adoption agency had heard of the work we had accomplished with Joey and approached us about adopting a second baby. An infant, not yet born, whose birth history to this point was— let’s just say— less than favorable. Having waited four years and turned over every stone available, I jumped at the prospect of adopting a second child. Months passed with no word left my husband settling on Joey being an only child. I believed in my heart and had faith we would get a second baby someday.
On January 6, 1997, our social worker called and said the baby was born on Christmas Eve, a baby boy. I was elated. Unfortunately, though the birthmother had signed off her rights to the child, the birth father had not—we needed to wait, again. The baby went into foster care. While my husband moved forward as a one child parent, still hopeful, I prepared for our second child. As the days and weeks passed, my faith began to waiver. What if the birthfather decides to keep the child? What if the foster parents fall in love with the baby? ‘What if’s’ started to attack my hope.
It was now Palm Sunday, the last Sunday in March. The church was packed. Trying to get some air and space, I stood near the doors in the back. Looking around at all the mothers holding babies in their arms, I began to feel jealous and bitter, and even a bit hopeless. Just then, a man came in the door, pushed his way through to grab a piece of palm, and began manipulating it into a shape. All of us in the back just glared at him for being so pushy and disruptive. When he was finished, he turned to me, handed me the piece of palm which he had molded and tied into the shape of a cross, and said, “All things are possible if you believe.” He walked out. I began to cry. The others in the back, thinking he said something repulsive went after him, but he was already gone. To this day we have never seen him again. The next day, the social worker called, the birthfather had signed off, our son Matthew came home. The piece of palm, now fourteen-years-old, still hangs in his room.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve begun to share strategies on how to desensitize your child to certain fears, how to lessen meltdowns with picture books, and how to make the transition to a new school year less traumatic with hosting a back-to-school party. I have many more tips and action steps I will be sharing over the next few months. And though I can give you the materials you will need to accomplish these tasks with your autistic child, there is one element only you can bring to the table…faith. You need to have faith in that what you are doing everyday for your child, will make a difference on his or her outcome. You may not see the impact the next day, the next week, or even the next year, but it will come.
Tomorrow is the last Sunday in National Autism Awareness Month. And whether it is a day of Easter celebration in your family or just another Sunday, I hope you all take a moment to reflect on the one common denominator all of us touched by autism needs to share…faith.