My son was diagnosed with autism at the age of two and my daughter was diagnosed on the spectrum at the age of three. They have consistently been in therapy since then. My son of course is more severe than my daughter and I often describe them in my post here (such as Stuck and Autism Sucks about our first day of school disaster). Our therapist have seen us through the good, the bad, and the really ugly. One memory that I have is of my boy sitting in a chair in a Batman costume at the age of three or four screaming for the entire hour of his occupational therapy session and Ms. Kathy sitting patiently by watching. Over the past several years I have met single women and married women without children that all make the same statement “I’m afraid to have kids because of Autism and intellectual disabilities. I am terrified to get genetics testing to see my chances. What do I do if I have a child with a disability, I’m not as strong as you.”
I respond with the subject line “Take a Deep Breath, Everything Will be Alright.” No parent decides that they want a child with a disability naturally unless they decide that they want to adopt a child with a special need. No parent wakes up and says, “I want a child that does not make eye contact with me.” It is something that happens and we have no control over it. Parents with children with special needs have to adapt quickly and learn everything on a learning curve. It is truly trial and error. Educators and therapist are trained to work with our kids, but I often find that they some of them are in a learning curve working with our kids day after day, month after month, and year after year because what they have learned in books is a one size fits all model instead of what I like to tell people, if you meet one child with ________ you have met one child with _________. But again, children are children. They come into the world needing unconditional love and giving unconditional love. When I am asked by these women and men what happens if I have a child with a disability or I don’t think I’m as strong as you, I am often reminded that God gives us nothing that we can not bear. We are brought into this world with for a purpose. If God so deems that I am strong enough to raise a child with more needs, then it will happen. It is a part of his design.
1 Corinthians 10:13
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape that ye may be able to bear it.”
I often sit and watch therapist and teacher’s give their all. I hear parents say often that I wish that they could walk a mile in my shoes. I wish that they knew what I was going through. I offer to loan you my kid for one day, I never wish that you had to walk in my shoes for a single moment. My life was given to me for a reason and I have to hold to that and have faith that my strength can help someone else. I have days when my strength does waiver. I have days when I question am I strong enough but when I look at the people that I serve, the people that I educate, and the people that rely on me, I can say emphatically, yes, I am strong enough. This is the resolve that I say to any person that does not have a child and they are concerned with having a child with a special need that its not a resolve that is given, it is a resolve that you must earn. It’s a crap shoot and when you roll the dice, you never know what you are going to get. You can not roll again, you have to be accepting of what you are given. I am accepting of what is handed to me and I wish some days that life were a little easier, yet it is not supposed to be easy, life is supposed to be lived and you have to walk through the pain, the strife, the good times and the bad to see the true joy and beauty of it. So to my friends out there that are therapist, teachers, or you are just in child bearing years and you know me and you worry if your life will become mine, no worries. If it is part of God’s design, it will happen and you will be strong enough to handle it. Now I will say that we are human beings and we will stumble, but I know that He will not let us fall. I fall back on my faith many days and remind myself of this fact. It is when we need Him most and we look around, there will be one set of foot steps instead of two because He is carrying us through our trials and tribulations. I am a realist by nature, it comes with the territory, but I was raised in the church. For those of you that don’t know, my mother is a Baptist minister and I know she would chuckle at this post, but my faith, the faith that I was raised with, has helped me through many worried nights and many fretful days and you have believe the same, no matter what you believe in.
Take a deep breath and know that everything will be alright. It takes a true village to raise our kids and we build that village and that village will be made of the most unlikely people that will cross your path. If it is in your design to welcome Autism, Downs, or any other disability into your home, your village will emerge and the people that do not understand will fall away. Your true friends will remain. I know, you’re young, you’re excited about moving forward with life and children may be part of that. I can tell you, you can prepare for the gift of life. You can buy diapers, wipes, and decorate a nursery, but you can not truly prepare for what changes may occur. I often have to remind myself that we are not in control. As much as we would love to be and maybe that is part of the design, the uncertainty of what our child may or may not be or do. Have faith and know with great certainty that God puts no more on us than we truly can bear.