A few days ago, I took Evan to his very first swim lesson.  Normally, sessions with new people don’t go well, but Evan cried minimally and smiled and laughed most of the time.  I tried to ease his transition by letting him watch Arianna’s swim lesson.  Of course, changing his clothes was an all out duel!  Once we sat down in front of the large window, he saw the others swimming and became pretty excited.  When I handed him off to the total stranger, he cried, but I’m pretty sure most 2 1/2 year-olds would do that!  And then Arianna and I, went back into the waiting area which was filled with mothers who were staring at us.  Yes, staring. 

I smiled meekly and took Arianna to get changed.  While drying her hair, I contimplated their stares.  I really did not think Evan’s level of upset was abnormal.  Once he was in the water, he stopped completely and was smiling and laughing.  Then, I realized that they must have known that the instructor was trained to teach special needs kids – that was why they were staring.   I have to admit, it made me feel worse.   

We sat down in the waiting area and Arianna ate a snack while we watched Evan.  The other moms were all talking to each other and introducing themselves.  I kind of felt like I should try and be social, but the episode of staring had thrown my confidence.  I sat there thinking of what my introduction should be, “No worries.  My autistic son is not contaminating the pool water.”  I laughed out loud when I thought this.  The absurdity of the thought began to put things in perspective. 

Autism is not contagious.  It is, however, extremely prevelent.  1 in 110 children are diagnosed with the condition and, even more striking, 1 in 70 boys.  Autistic people can be very different from us, but for every thing which makes them different – there is one thing that we have in common. 

Last Saturday, I went to an Autism Expo.  There were tons of places offering services – schools, therapies, organizations, etc.  There was one booth with an autistic man.  He was selling and signing a book he had written.  There were probably hundreds of people at this event, but no one was at his booth.  I knew why.  They were afraid to talk to him.  I was afraid.  I didn’t even stop.  I felt convicted about it all day.  Yet, I had forgotten about it completely until Tuesday. 

Tuesday was the day I took Evan to the pool and no one talked to me, because they knew he was ‘special’.  It is so easy as human beings to focus on all things that make us different from one another.  We have seen it through history – skin color, religion, etc.  Why can’t we see what makes us the same? 

I’m not offended by those moms at all anymore.  I realize that they didn’t talk to me for the same reason I didn’t talk to the autistic man at the expo.  They were afraid.  Afraid they might say the wrong thing.  Afraid I wouldn’t want to talk about the same things as them.  Afraid it might be awkward between us.  They couldn’t see that we were in the same building for the exact same reason – swim lessons.  Perhaps next week I will introduce myself like this:

“No worries.  If your children contaminate the pool with their normalcy, I won’t be offended.  After all, they are all here to swim, aren’t they?”

Ouch.  Maybe not.  Perhaps this vein of thought would be better…

“Hi, my name is Ashley.  That’s my son, Evan, out there.  He has autism.  And he loves the water, huge hugs, anything with wheels and running around like a bulldozer.   I’m really proud of him.  Which child is yours?”


A Dream Like State

March 18, 2011

Every morning my oldest daughter, Arianna, sky rockets out of her room at around 6:30 am with her hands in the air singing, “It’s morning time!”  She is full of life and energy.  Most mornings I get up and close the door behind her so that Evan and Tessa can sleep more. 

This morning, however, I woke up to someone climbing into my bed.  I smiled and said, “Good morning, Aria.”  When no one responded I opened my eyes to see Evan sitting next to me.  He was facing the opposite direction so I couldn’t see his face.  In surprise, I said “Hi, Buddy!”  No response.  I laid back down and stared at him, thinking that I wished I could know what he was thinking.  Then, very slowly he reached over and grabbed my index finger.  We sat in silence for several minutes, with him just holding my finger.  It was one of my better ‘mom’ moments.  Even though we can’t talk yet – we still communicate. 

I just love him so much.  I long for the day when he will say, “I love you, Mom.”  Perhaps people think that is a long shot, but I don’t.  Mornings like these tell me otherwise.  There is hope.  This morning he could have done any number of autistic behaviors instead of sitting with me in bed.  But he didn’t.  He just wanted to be with me.  

Thank you, God – for this special moment.

I believe God changes circumstances.  I believe God, literally, gives people money.  Certainly, there are times when it seems that their employer gave them money or a loved one ‘left’ them money.  Yet, I believe that it all flows from this giant storehouse of ‘dough’ in the sky.  I know it sounds silly.  Yet, I cannot explain another way that formula showed up on my doorstep when Arianna was 6 months-old and our account was overdrawn.  Nor can I explain how we paid off $30,000 in debt in 2 years when my income was even less than that.  Certainly, someone probably put formula on our doorstep and God moved the hearts of our creditors to cancel some of our debt.  I am definitely not proud of what led us to those circumstances.  Our sins, however, do not diminish God’s work in our lives.  In fact, they illuminate the glory of His redemption. 

Right now, I would really like for God to change our circumstances.  (Wouldn’t we all?)  When I pray for these things, I envision myself shaking the legs of this really tall, super-dude.  Then, these giant gold coins start reigning down at my feet.  I know, its not really traditional and highly unlikely.  What have I done to deserve His blessing?  Just about nothing. 

Today, I got a quote from Anthem for Evan’s insurance.  It would cover his ABA therapy, which he needs 20-40 hours a week.  To put it lightly, ABA therapy is a little expensive.  Imagine paying someone with a lot of education to work with your son full-time.  Now, imagine that person makes more than you do.  How are you going to pay them?  Well, you have to buy more insurance.  Unfortunately, that insurance costs $700/month.  Yes, that’s right!  If I wasn’t a believer, then I might consider some very desperate ways of obtaining this money.  Its that important that Evan have it.  He needs this therapy so much!!!

I don’t want pity right now, but I want people to know how to pray for us.  Take a minute and see what adding a $700 bill to your monthly payments does.  Then, envision me shaking God’s legs again.  Please pray that God opens up a giant whole in the sky over our family and that all of the resources of heaven and earth (money) are at our disposal.  If that seems weird to you, then pray that Jesse get a job.  And if you know anyone who needs a FABULOUS graphic designer, then tell them about Jesse! 

I believe God created the people who designed and discovered the effectiveness of ABA therapy and I believe He wants Evan to have access to it.

For my little dude.

Jedi Evan Courtesy Peter Evans
Evan dressed as a Jedi for Halloween.

To God be the Glory. 

Great things He will do.