Ten thanks to children with autism

Lisa Jo Rudy


In 2006, I asked families to tell me what's best about their child with autism. Here are just a few of their responses. None of these families sees autism through rose-colored glasses -- yet each feels that autism has added greatly to their lives.

As you read these notes, you may be surprised that families use words like "joy," "affection," and humor to describe their autistic loved ones. These are qualities some experts claim are lacking in people with autism. Maybe some experts are wrong!

1. Jalen's Smile
Everyone loves Jalen’s smile. It is so beautiful, and it can make you temporarily forget all that’s wrong in the world! He also is very earnest in his art projects — he’s now 13, and they are pretty much preschool/young elementary school type projects — but I appreciate how good he feels about doing them. I also like the way he’s developed — over the years, he’s becoming much more caring.
by Cynthia Whitfield — December 7, 2006

2. Noah's Joy
We love how Noah (4) wakes up every single morning with a smile on his face, ready to play and learn. He is a happy and sweet soul with a laugh that comes from his toes. It is a joy to hear his voice as he learns to speak. He has **always” been a joy to us– our baby, youngest of 4, special– as they all are!
Comment by Ali and Pete — December 8, 2006

3. Julian's Christmas Show
Julian is just 4 years old. Yesterday, we attended his second Christmas program at his preschool for special needs. The gym was dark and it was time for his class to enter the stage. In the middle of all the fake snow being thrown, the singing and room full of parents -- he panned the room and found my face. At that moment, I wasn’t paying attention to any other cute thing going on but that beautiful smile that emerged when he focused only on me. I guess if there was an emergency evacuation, we would still be sitting there in both of our spots! I walked out of that building being the luckiest mom in the whole world!
Comment by Donna Keith — December 8, 2006

4. Finding the Joy in Every Moment
When our kiddo rode his tricycle for the first time, we went nuts. His first words at 2 and a half were the best sounds ever. When my youngest pointed for the first time at 14 months, I went out of my mind! See, for me, all those little “normal” things, things other parents take for granted every single day, are the highlights of my life. ... That’s what I love about my autistic kids, they make me realize the joy in every single little moment, in every single little action in their life… and mine.
Comment by Kari — December 8, 2006

5. A Brother's Loving Heart
My brother Matthew is 9 years old. What I love the most about my brother is that he is different and unique but has the biggest heart. He is not shy, he loves to hug people and he always has a smile. When he comes home, the first thing that comes to his mind is ‘Meagan, where are you??’ and that makes me feel like he will never forget his big sister. The smile on his face reminds me that he is no different and I just love him the way he is!
by Meagan McIntosh

6. Jeffrey Brings Down the House
14-year-old Jeffrey wanted to do the school talent show; he had been taking piano lessons for almost 2 years. He had to audition and was accepted. He attended the rehearsals and did a wonderful job at the actual talent show - he played “Edelweiss”. When he finished playing, he was grinning ear to ear, the audience gave a grand round of applause and you could just see how proud Jeffrey was of himself!

People say he is doing so well because he has such loving parents who help him so much. But I believe Jeffrey is showing us the way! I think of him as my shining star -- leading me through the confusing maze of autism!
by Nancy West — December 10, 2006

7. Taylor's Faith
Taylor is 10 and is moderately autistic. At 10, he is past the age of being just “cute” and growing into such a beautiful young man. He NEVER lies (says he’s no good at it, why try), is honest and forthright in everything he does and has a close, personal relationship with God. He does not have faith. He has something so much more. He KNOWS and finds comfort in his relationship with God. God sits in the room with him. Jesus is by his side when he sleeps. He has strengthened my faith by his own.
by Lesa Crowe — December 12, 2006

8. John's Commitment to Justice
My son, John is 15 and has a PDD. He is honest and funny and a true automotive expert! He is very intelligent in an IQ-test sort of way, but struggles with the mechanics of even the most basic social interactions. One of the things I love best about him is his passionate commitment to justice. He has so much to offer the world, including the realization that opening our hearts to those who seem “different” can enlarge and expand all of us.
by Denise Gribbin — December 14, 2006

9. What Sam Has Taught Us
Sam, my 11-year-old grandson, has opened so many eyes and hearts with his quick smile and insatiable desire to know more….more about his ever expanding world. He has taught us about snakes, trains, airplanes, sit-coms, Avatar, and what a family is. To Sam a family is always a breath away from planning another celebration…no holiday or event needed…just celebrate being!

As Sam's ‘Granny Person’ (his name for me) I treasure every hug, every visit, every time he says ”I need to more about that” and I know I can actually tell him more or direct him to sources. Sam uses different eyes to see this world and has made me a better Granny person for it! Amazement fills my world filtered thru Sam’s eyes.
by Janet Hoover — December 15, 2006

10. Darbie's Surprising Strengths
My 12-year-old daughter Darbie never ceases to amaze us. When we watched her become a Black Belt at TaeKwonDo, then teach a group of 100 Girl Scouts aged 5-14 basic self-defense as part of a Bronze Award (the highest for her age group), it was, to us, a miracle. She sees the good in everyone, and yet is totally aware that there are times when others are not so nice. We worry that when she finally grows up she won’t be able to take care of herself, but then she goes and proves us wrong by showing incredible clarity and maturity! It’s that ability to surprise us with her unique, and often unusually clear, insights that we love the most. That and her ability to show her love for you when you least expect it, but most need it.
by DarBecca

Courtesy of About.com a NY Times Company


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