Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I Love Someone...

There are so many ways that social media makes it easy to show support for others.  Have a friend in need of encouragement?  Email 'em.  Have a friend with a great need?  Create a Facebook group to keep everyone posted.  Have a friend with a child with a special need?  Share a picture, video, or other inspiring story.  As many people as you want can see your support.

It's encouraging to see people repost stuff about autism, loving people with autism, accepting them, not judging, etc.  It really is.  But as I caught myself posting a beautiful picture of hands in the shape of a heart with "I love someone with autism" in the heart, I couldn't help but think of what that means.

For you, it might mean smiling at someone at school.  It might mean sitting with them when no one else does.  It might mean finding other ways to show kindness, even in little ways.  It also might mean defending said person, child or adult, against bullies.  You may know what it's like to ask someone to stop speaking of someone that way... or you might be the one who shows them he's a pretty neat guy after all.

I'm grateful for you. You are the ones who will do things in places where I cannot be.  Although we autism moms feel like we have to live forever and be everything sometimes, the truth is I'm just a person.  I have to let go and let him do things like go to school.  Someday that will be work, and I'll be praying that you're there for him.

For some others, you're a bit closer.  You're the aunt or uncle, grandparent or close family friend.  You've opened your home to the uncertainty that can be a little guy like mine.  Maybe you've even been with us through a meltdown.  Maybe you've been one of the few, the brave... to take a trip with us to someplace like the zoo.  Or maybe you're the awesome uncle who played and swam with he and his brother and sister, and while he was careful to keep you safe, he loved on and played with you just as much as you were comfortable.  None of you have had training, you just love who you love.  And by golly, a little different isn't going to stop you.

I'm grateful for you too.  Our families (including friends who are family) are so crucial to us, and your loving attitude toward the often shocking differentness makes it possible for us to spend time with you.  Thank you for teaching your kids about ours through your love of him, too.  You'll find that example is the best teacher.

Then there are the kinds of you who love autistic kids by choice.  You've chosen to spend your professional life with these dear ones, helping them and their families while they feel their way in the world.  You sit in someone else's house, a clinic, or a classroom while your own children are at the day care, babysitter, or school.  You've given endless amounts of time and money to help our children and, by extension, their families.  You love kids with autism with your life by choice, whether you're speech, occupational therapy, music therapy, child psychology, ABA, physical therapy, or a special education or regular teacher.  Your contribution to our lives is an answer to prayer.

Last, there's the set like myself.  Moms, Dads, brothers and sisters.  Loving kids with autism to us wasn't as much of a choice as a compulsion.  And this is where those little posts don't sink to the marrow of how it really is.  I don't love a kid with autism.

I love Ryan.

I love how he runs to me, giggling, and throws his arms around me.

I love how he says, "Mama picka upa Ryan!"

I love his cool cheek against mine while I struggle to hold all 85 pounds of him.

I love how he draws me into his chanting games.

I love how, when I'm really busy, he will come and say, "Mom will sit on the couch!" And lay his head on my lap.

I love his sense of humor.

I love how he patted his brother on the head this morning, saying "Good job!"

I love how happy that made his brother.

I love how he has no concern for social convention, pretension, or anything like that.  And I love how he's cutting those things out of my life.

I love how even the things I DO NOT love about autism make me better.  How they hold a mirror to my heart, shedding light on the most selfish parts of me, exposing room for improvement.

I love how his smile makes me feel.  And his laugh?  Amazing.

So what does it mean to love a kid with autism?  It's different for every one of us.  I'm sure if my husband were home, he could think of several things to add.

To love a kid with autism?  It's our whole lives.  It colors every decision, shapes every plan, and re-thinks even the most droll, regular of the mundane.  To love a kid with autism is to love our son. And that?  It's as easy as falling off a log.  He may have a hard time fitting into the classroom, the grocery store, or someplace like the mall or the zoo, but he fits perfectly into our hearts.

Thanks be to God for Ryan... and for all of you who love him and kids like him too.

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