You may find this shocking, but I'm going to confess it anyway. Ready?
I'm thankful for a child with autism.
Don't get me wrong - I long for a world in which parents no longer have to sit in a room full of experts who pronounce their child "defective" and hash out the best route to the brightest possible future. It's agonizing to be told your child is autistic, wondering if your child will ever converse, have friends, hold a job, marry.
But for me, that happened 13 years ago, and in the 13 years since, I've realized a lot of things about her autism.
Realizations like austism makes her who she is, the girl that I love; without it, she would not be "her." I simply cannot imagine her any other way. She was fearfully and wonderfully made; all her days were planned out for her before any of them came to be (Ps. 139). THIS is who she was meant to be for our today and her future.
It gives her an innocence that I treasure. She has an encouraging, forgiving, trusting sense of personal grace I envy.
Autism is responsible for a certain brilliance to her memory I find sometimes fearsome and most often awesome. As a young child who could not yet read, she could hear music played from a page and still know, months later, what song was from what page. She saw Fantasia 2000 once and afterward could listen to the soundtrack and describe what was happening in the movie at that point in the music; she'd stare at the picture window like it was a movie screen, enjoying the movie again as it played realistically in her head. She's a steel trap for every factoid on whatever topic she currently enjoys.
Because of her autism, we've perhaps lost a lot. But, oh, I've gained so much, too, and that's what I prefer to focus on.
Autism exposed us to amazing teachers and aides who genuinely loved her, pushed her and taught her necessary skills beyond classroom academics; they've continued to cheer her progress long after she's left their instruction.
It makes the ordinary milestones extraordinary. I cried the first time she called me mom. I celebrated seeing her go from having to use pictures to tell me what she did that day to a fully mainstreamed high school student with her own set of peer friends. Your kids have no doubt made friends among their peers; it's the most normal thing in the world. For an autistic child, it's a monumental achievement. The moment I got to exit her from special ed because she'd achieved all the goals they could set for her -- normal things like how to ask for help and converse with friends -- was worth every. single. tear. shed over the years.
It's made her work hard. She's pushed herself to go on long youth trips, tackling whitewater rafting and working in inner-city missions because she wanted to go beyond her comfort zone. I don't think watching her do these things would be nearly as amazing had she been "normal."
I do wonder about her future. I don't know what college -- just two short years away -- and career will hold for her. Marriage and family? Who knows?
Well, God knows. I might not, but I can rest in knowing He does and that whatever her future is, it will be what it is supposed to be. He's made her - wonderfully.