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My Letter to Autism

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Dear Autism,

I’ve been meaning to write to you for quite some time but thanks to you, I’ve been pretty busy as you can imagine.

Today is World Autism Awareness Day so it seemed a good time to finally write this letter. Of course as the parent of a son with autism, every day is autism awareness day in our house.

Over the years I have cursed at you, yelled at you, cried at you, and tried my best to understand you. The more I have learned about you, the more I realize how little I know about you.

But there is one thing I haven’t done.

I have never stopped to thank you.

That’s right. I need to stop and thank you for a few things today especially since this is your big day.

You probably don’t get a lot of thank you notes mixed in with all your hate mail; so let me try to explain why I’m writing.

You see you robbed my son of his speech. Because of you he is non-verbal and has no language.

But when you robbed my son of his speech, God decided to give him a voice and a platform.

He may not speak, but God used his life to inspire, bless, and teach others around him. He inspired my wife and I so much we started a special needs ministry and now we are helping encourage other families like ours on the same journey.

Hey Autism, do you remember that cave you tried to lure us and other autistic families into for the rest of their lives? You know, the isolated dreary cave where you want all autistic families to live in without hope?

We tried it. It just wasn’t for us. So now we do search and rescue, returning to the cave over and over to show others the way out of the cave and to a better place.

Autism, there are so many other things you’ve robbed us from for which I need to thank you.

You’ve robbed me from my own pride, selfishness, and greed.

You’ve robbed me from my tendency to put my work above my family.

You’ve robbed me from living for myself instead of in service to others.

You’ve robbed me of only caring about those who are just like me.

You’ve robbed me of believing there are some struggles just too big for us.

You’ve robbed me of never finding out what God’s plan and purpose is for my life.

I know you don’t like to talk about God much since you know what he plans to do to you someday. Ever read Revelation? But I do need to talk about Him for a minute.

He made a couple of promises in a book he wrote. He promised to take what was intended to harm us, and use it for good. Then he promised to make all things work together for good to accomplish his purposes.

I don’t know that I ever fully believed him until we met you and you came into our lives.

Speaking of coming into my life, I have met some amazing people because of our common association with you. Therapists, teachers, assistants, service providers—dedicated and passionate people who have crossed our path and have become part of our story—people I never might have met if it weren't for you. Thanks to you I've also met some amazing parents raising their own heroes with autism, who inspire and encourage me.

What you don’t know Autism is that God didn’t take away the struggles, the pain, the challenges- he just simply used them in ways I never dreamed or you never expected.

He has used them to teach me unconditional love

He has used them to teach me the essence of grace.

He has used them to teach me to find joy in all things.

He has used them to show me how to be content in the little things.

Really you can say he has simply used them to draw me closer to him, help me understand him, and make me stronger through him.

In trying to destroy us, all you did was prepare a stage for God to show his glory.

You really helped me take my relationship with God to a much higher and deeper level; so thank you so much! I’m so grateful! Now I rely and lean on him now more than ever.

I also want to thank you for drawing my wife and I closer together in our relationship. We have learned to cry together, laugh together, grief together, and stand strong together because of you.

So you see Autism, I have quite a bit of gratitude for you. Of all the things I’ve said to you and about you, I’ve never thanked you.

Who knew that out of my seeds of hate for you, could grow such love for my son!

I know you will keep trying to harm us and other families. That’s just who you are and your style.

And my God will continue to redeem all of your evil and harm for his glory. That’s just who he is and his style.

So consider this my thanks to you. But let’s be clear just so you know, I still loathe and despise you with everything in me.

Regards,

Jeff Davidson

 

The 43 Hour Vacation

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Photo credit gatlingburg.qsmvrq.com

“I think I will move to Australia.”

So says the young boy Alexander in Judith Viorst’s award winning children’s book, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” That was one of my personal favorite books as a child. Now here I was, sitting on the edge of the bed at 2:16am tempted to check the flight schedules to Sydney myself.

Five years had passed since the last time we had attempted to take a family trip together. That one ended with me in a coma.

Those were the “good ole’ days compared to this family vacation.

With Jon Alex’s profound special needs, coupled with his autistic demand for routine and structure, we knew it would be a challenge to slip off for a few days together. However the cabin was free, the drive less than three hours, and the timing seemed right, so we went for it.

Out of concern for overflowing bathtubs onto the hardwood floors, the cabin owners had made sure there was no way to stop up the tub for a bath. Baths just happen to be our son’s favorite activity and part of his nightly routine. So baths were out for the duration of the trip.

There was no chair safe enough to leave him unattended, so he was forced to stay in in his wheelchair for a great portion of the time in the cabin. The television set was mounted up high which, when coupled with his vision issues, prevented him from watching his favorite videos. So quite simply there was nothing for him to do, and his routine was getting out of sorts by the minute.

During the cold war, the United States used a scale called DEFCON to determine our state of alertness. DEFCON 5 meant we were at peace while DEFCON 1 meant nuclear war was imminent.

At 4pm that first day, I took our family’s status to Defcon 3.

Jon Alex’s mobility issues put a severe limit on what he could physically do outside of the cabin environment. So going into town to find things to entertain him with was not really a viable option either.

Meanwhile tensions were escalating rapidly inside the cabin. Our conversations were getting terse, our words sharp, and our tempers brief. Bedtime came and brought a new round of problems. The cabin only had one bedroom on the main level. With Jon Alex’s cerebral palsy and my handicapped feet, we would have to find a way for all of us to sleep on the main level.

We decided to blow up a double high air mattress to put on the floor for Jon Alex to prevent him from rolling off of a regular bed in the night. Despite being non-verbal, Jon Alex expressed his delight with the arrangements by turning the air mattress into his own personal trampoline. He bounced and he bounced, and he bounced.

Did I mention he bounced?  Not for a minute, not for a moment, not for an hour- but for the whole night!!He would not go to sleep.

The air mattress would lose air from all the bouncing, and he would sink towards the floor. We would have to lift him up and re-inflate the mattress over and over. Here we were now at 2:16am, everyone wide-awake, yet utterly exhausted.

As Alexander had said, “It had been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” I took our family’s status to DEFCON 2, and downloaded a Visit Australia app for my smartphone.

The sun came up on Day 2 of our unfortunate incarceration.

The second day was a repeat of the first day in many ways. Tensions escalated at an alarming rate. We were beyond tired, bored, and the thought of staying there the rest of the week was unbearable. Becky and I began throwing out trial balloons to each other about ending the vacation earlier than we had planned and just returning home. I was secretly looking at the Qantas Airlines flight schedule.

Once again we put the air mattress down after once again forgoing the nightly bath. And once again, Jon Alex was thrilled to have his indoor trampoline back. No sleep for anyone the entire night, yet again.

I channeled Barry Corbin as General Beringer in the movie “War Games” as he said, “Flush the bombers, get the subs in launch mode, we’re at DEFCON 1.”

At 10pm we decided to leave the following afternoon and return home.

At midnight we decided to move up our departure time to noon.

At 2:00am we decided to leave after breakfast.

At 4:00am under the cover of darkness, and pouring rain, we loaded up and made our move. Who needs breakfast anyway?

At 7:45am we pulled into the driveway of home sweet home. Jon Alex soaked in the bathtub with a huge grin on his face, and I crawled under a blanket in my favorite recliner. I clicked my heels as I slipped my shoes off and said, “There’s no place like home.”

The Story Teller

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Maybe it’s because I grew up in a small rural town in the South myself.

Maybe it’s because I share so many of the same values, morals, and ideals that the show portrayed.

Maybe it’s just because I love old-school comedy and quirky characters.

For whatever reason, I have always been, and still remain, an avid fan of the Andy Griffith television show. If I’m watching TV and I come across an old rerun, I am probably going to stop and watch it to this day.

My favorite character on the Andy Griffith show was Deputy Barney Fife, played by actor Don Knotts. The character of Barney Fife was a bungling, goofy, misfit of a Deputy Sheriff who owed most of his success to the Sheriff’s “fixing” of his missteps. The role was so perfectly suited for Don Knott’s slapstick, over-the-top comedy. He would win an Emmy Award for each of the five years he appeared on the show.

Don Knotts was so good in that role that it ruined any chance he had to become a serious actor. He was so type cast that most of his latter roles in television were playing very similar style characters. No one could see him playing a serious role in film or television.

The wrong main character will ruin a good story. Everyone was afraid that if they cast Don Knotts into a serious role, it would ruin the story.

Can you imagine Don Knotts as Batman? Or how about Don Knotts playing Col. Jessup, the Jack Nicholson character in “A Few Good Men?” Or Don Knotts instead of Russell Crowe in “Gladiator?”

It just wouldn’t work.

God is telling His story around us all the time. And he invites you and I to play a part in his story. And that’s the part I keep forgetting. It’s His story.

I’m not even the main character in the story of my own life. My life story, according to God, is about Jesus. I just get to play my little supporting role while Christ stars in the story.

Sometimes I struggle with accepting the role God has given me in the telling of his story. Oftentimes I don’t like the script. Sometimes I struggle because I don’t like the way my story is going. There are certain scenes of my life as a dad of a child with special needs that I would just soon leave out of the script altogether. As I go further down this journey raising a son with special needs I’m finding that the hard scenes I often want to skip are the ones that end up mattering the most in my life. But I don’t get to edit the script because I’m not the director.

I have to remember that everything God does, he does to accomplish his purposes, and to bring glory and honor to his name.

The way I respond to my challenges in raising a child with special needs; the way I let God use my circumstances to accomplish his purposes; the way I react to the trials; it’s all part of the way I tell my story. And the way I tell my story becomes the way I live his story.

God has given each of us a unique story when he created us. We cannot be envious or jealous of someone else’s story. We can’t try to live someone else’s story. We also can’t let someone else try to control our story.

When they film a television show or a movie, they don’t film the scenes sequentially. Meaning all the scenes that comprise the finished product aren’t necessarily shot in the order they will appear in the story.

God’s purpose for your life is like that. Some scenes don’t make sense to us right now because we haven’t seen the finished product. And this side of heaven we may never know the purpose, the point, or the reason for all we endure.

But we know God is creating a masterpiece, an epic magnum opus. And you and I as special needs parents, we were chosen to play our part.

Make sure you are a story worth telling.

A Valentine Letter to Mom

Becky and her valentine Jon Alex

Becky and her valentine Jon Alex

 

No chocolates, no flowers, not even a card.

You say to yourself “that’s OK, what I really wanted was a nap anyway.”

But you didn’t get that either.

The dishes still lay untouched in the sink. The baskets of unfolded clothes are stacked on top of each other like planes circling the airport.

Another bill lies unopened on the kitchen counter. You don’t even want to open it tonight so you just leave it there with the others- all unopened as well.

Your biggest hope for this Valentine’s night is that you won’t be changing your child’s sheets at 3am like last night.

You don’t even know what you feel anymore. Sometimes you wonder if you have any feeling left at all. The numbness just envelops you.

Your bed beckons but you don’t have the strength to get up and go to the bedroom so you just collapse on the couch.

Instead of flowers and candies at work today, you got a call from your child’s therapist and a denial letter from your insurance company.

Instead of a romantic dinner out tonight for Valentines, you had French fries and chicken chunks because for 5 nights in a row that is the only thing your special needs child would eat.

Somewhere they are dancing tonight. You aren't even sure your shoes match.

But I watched you today. I watched you lay down your life over and over for that child. I watched you love unconditionally. I watched you give sacrificially.

I watched you give of yourself until there was nothing left of you to give.

I saw everything. I heard everything.

And when you cried yourself to sleep and muffled your tears in your pillow; well, I heard that too. In fact, I collected those tears and kept them in a bottle.

But I heard something else you didn’t.

I know how much you long to hear your son speak. I know the depths of your desires to just hear him say, “I love you mom.” I know how frustrating it is for both of you.

Well, tonight when he lay in his bed, I heard something you didn’t mom.

I heard him go on and on to me about how much he loves you, he needs you, and how you are his world mom.

He and I speak of you all the time. While this world had robbed of him of his ability to communicate to you, he speaks clearly through his spirit to me. We share a language not of this world. And in that language known only to us, he tells me of his love for you all the time.

His body and mind may be disabled mom, but there are no disabled souls.

You are his valentine every day…not just today.

He loves you mom. You give him life. I like to think you got that from me.

And one other thing.

Never ever forget. Never forget.

I love you too my daughter. I chose you. I called you. I created you.

My eyes saw your unformed body when I knit you together in your mother’s womb. Your frame was not hidden from me. And you and your child are fearfully and wonderfully made.

I cherish you. I’ll never leave you. I’ll never forsake you. I will never stop loving you. You are never alone.

Be my valentine.

--Your Dad,

God.

 

How Long To Sing This Song?

JA and Dad

I waited patiently for the Lord

He inclined and heard my cry

He lift me up out of the pit

Out of the miry clay

I will sing, sing a new song

I will sing, sing a new song 

How long to sing this song?

How long to sing this song?

How long...how long...how long...

How long...to sing this song”

                                                                                     (“40” by U2, based upon the words of Psalm 40)

 

When he was just a baby, I would hold my son Jon Alex in my arms at night and gently sing that song to him. I have no idea why that song or even how I chose that particular song. But from the moment I heard the song for the first time all those years ago, it captivated me. So it became our song.

When he began to miss milestones early in his development, I would sing over him, “How long…to sing this song.”

When he refused to make eye contact with anyone in his early years and acted as if we weren't even there, I would cry, “how long…to sing this song. How long…how long…

When he couldn’t talk, when he couldn’t walk, when he wouldn’t play with toys, when he wouldn’t even acknowledge us, I would sing every night, “how long….to sing this song.”

Every time we saw the pediatrician and he muttered “developmental delay, I would hear those haunting lyrics in my head.

As my vocabulary grew and I learned new words like autism, cerebral palsy, sensory processing disorder, even then, I would hold him at night and softly sing “how long, to sing this song. How long…how long…”

Those words became my constant lament, my own personal book of Lamentations written from my own pit where my soul lay, crumbled and crushed.

I think everyone has something in their lives that makes them whisper and wonder, "How long...to sing this song."

For me it's questions such as these.

“Who is going to take care of my son when we are gone?”

Will he ever make any progress in his quality of life?

Is this all there will ever be?

How can we ever afford the bills?

What will he do when he is out of school?

Will he ever talk, or even walk on his own?

How is this going to affect our dreams, our goals, our lives?”

How will we take care of him when we are older, even elderly?

 

O Lord, “How long to sing this song, how long, how long?”

 

And so we are here tonight are in his room.

His room. My sanctuary.

I call it that because I’m convinced the Spirit of God hangs out at J.A.’s place.

He is sitting cross-legged in his platform swing hanging from the ceiling. I am seated beside the swing, pushing it back and forth while singing our silly, little songs that we ritualistically do in the same order every night.

The moment comes, as it does every night, when I lean over and say, “Jon Alex you are the top dog, the big cheese, the number one son, right hand man, crown prince, heir to the throne, big dog, big wave, big kahuna, my man, wing man, Superman.”

Sounds downright goofy as I write out the words. But it’s our thing. (I don’t care what you think; I don’t sing it to you!)

And at that very moment as I spoke, he reached his feeble arms out and wrapped them around my neck. He pulled himself to a standing position in front of me using his arms. I encircled his waist with my arms to prevent him from falling.

For six seconds that lasted six years to me, he locked in on my eyes with blazing intensity from inches away, and his gap-toothed grin split his face in two.

And then he leaned in and kissed the top of my head, arms around my neck.

Flash bombs of light exploded in my heart at that very moment. How could I possible love anyone more than this beautiful gift I had been given? What had I done that made God deem me worthy of choosing me to be this young man’s father? Why did He lavish His great love on me by giving me Jon Alex to be my son?

Gratefulness, thankfulness, unspeakable love, grace, mercy, joy, peace, contentment, satisfaction, God’s presence, God’s provision, God’s purpose, --like waves of Roman candles on the Fourth of July they came shooting out of the bottom of the pit.

Blazing lights burst and banished the darkness. And when my heart’s eyes adjusted, a rope had unfurled into the pit, curling at my feet.

The cold floor of the pit began to glow and throb furiously. I could no longer feel the miry clay, for my feet had been set upon a rock. The Rock.

God had heard my cry. He lifted me up out of the pit. Out of the miry clay. And I began to sing the rest of the song.

 

“ I will sing, sing a new song. I will sing, sing a new song.”

When hope is all you’ve got

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Pulling into the driveway I saw Becky emerging through the opening garage door. In an instant I knew she had finally received the phone call we were both looking forward to and yet dreading at the same time.

“Vanderbilt Children’s just called. The test shows he is having seizures,” she said softly.” I could tell she had been crying.

For the past 16 years we have wrestled with Jon Alex’s special needs- autism, cerebral palsy, mental and cognitive impairment, and lack of mobility. We have grieved over and over. We have wrestled with God for answers. And yet somehow through all the storms, we have stayed in the boat.

The higher the waves and the stronger the wind, the more determined we have been to trust God and stay in the boat. We have worshipped while wet. We have been soaked but not sank. We have taken on water but we have not drowned.

But recently Jon Alex has exhibited some new behaviors that concerned us. The neurologists had suggested some tests earlier this month.

Just a few days ago, during Christmas week, we learned from the tests that Jon Alex now has epileptic seizures in addition to his other special needs.

Getting a new diagnosis stirs up all those old emotions. The grief cycle begins again, and what was the new normal gives way to the even “newer normal.”

I want to shout out, “Why God? Why now?” I want to scream and kick and complain. But then I remind myself what I espouse so often to others to whom I minister.

God is telling HIS story through my son’s life. None of this is about me, or us, or my son. This is the part we have been given in HIS story. When I cry out that “it’s not fair,” I remind my self that grace isn’t fair either though. I don’t deserve it either, but He gives it to me anyway.

God promises three things in all circumstances. Three things he will accomplish in the telling of his story. Three things he will accomplish in my story, and in yours.

These are the promises I cling to, and in these promises I have hope.

He promises that everything he does is about bringing more people into his kingdom. He promises to take care of the faithful believer in the end. The third promise is that in all things he will be glorified and worthy of honor. So when I accept my role in his story and I realize it’s his story we are writing in the first place, I see things differently.

I have hope. Hope that anchors my soul.

Hope that God will use this journey we are on to accomplish those three things.

The day will soon come when there will be no more crying and no more tears. There will be no more pain and no more sorrow. God says he himself will wipe them away and he will make all things new.

Autism will be defeated.

Cerebral palsy will no longer exist.

Seizures will cease.

Death will be no more.

Sorrow will turn into joy and mourning into dancing.

The last chapter of the story will be told.

So stay in the boat my friends. When hope is all you have, hope will be enough.

When hope is all you've got, you've got all you need.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
therefore I will hope in him,” says Lamentations 3:23-24.

My hope is built on nothing less.

The Hand

I sat beside the hospital bed anxiously waiting. How long would it take for the anesthesia to kick in? How long will the test then take? What if he has a reaction to the medicine they used to put him under?

He knew something different was happening. He was in a strange place. People were hooking him up to all kinds of electrical monitors and equipment. There were all these people in the room he did not know, all dressed alike.

He looked at me as if to say, “what is going on?” As I prayed silently over him, I reached out and took his hand and squeezed it.

As I did so, I looked down and was struck by the image of my son’s hand in my hand, with identical identifying wristbands.

The hospital had placed those wristbands on us when we arrived for the test. They were proof that he belonged to me, and that I belonged to him. They had our names on them and symbolized our relationship. If anyone had any doubt that he was my son, and I was his father, all they had to do is glance at our hands.

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And now here I was holding my whole world by holding my son’s hand. As if I were saying, “you are always in my thoughts, you are constantly present in my head. I will never leave you, abandon you, or ask you to walk through this alone because you are my son. So much so that this wristband is as if you were indelibly marked on my hand. You are mine, and I am yours.

I am reminded of the verse in Isaiah 49:16 where God tells his people the same thing. He says, “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
  your walls are ever before me.”

God tells his people he has written their names on his hands. In other words, he says, I have marked you as belonging to me. I never stop thinking about you, I never stop caring about you. I never stop loving you. I have marked you as mine, and nothing can ever change that. I am here, and I always will be.

Sometimes when the storms hit, it’s very easy to lose sight of this.

“Where’s God?”

“Has God left us?”

“ Does God care?”

Am I going to walk down this path alone?

God wants to remind us that he has written our names on his hand. He constantly thinks about us, and would never ask us to go through this journey without his presence.

No matter how brutal a storm you are facing….

No matter how high the waves are crashing…

No matter how strong the wind is blowing…

No matter how high the waters get…

No storm is too great for you when you know where to find your father’s hand.

The Thanksgiving List

 

Becky and her valentine's gift from Jon Alex

Wonder Woman and Superman

 

The holidays are a stressful time for special needs families. Then again, when is it not a stressful time for those of us raising a child with special needs? Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of reflection and gratitude. It’s supposed to be a time to offer up thanks for all the wonderful things and blessings in our lives.

You see it all over Facebook this time of year. People making, and then sharing, lists of what they are thankful for this season.

Let’s be honest though. There are a lot of special needs parents whose struggles challenge them to come up with any sort of list this time of year. Deep down in our secret place, choosing to be in an attitude of gratefulness can be a challenge.

The Dark side beckons, teases, and whispers alluringly into our ears. And this time of year when the days are short and the nights are long, it’s so easy to climb into the pit, curl up, and never want to leave.

So here’s what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving season.

1)    I am thankful for every mom and dad of a child with special needs who stuck it out despite the odds and are raising their child together.

2)    I am thankful for all the dads who choose to be involved and engaged- and who refuse to be a “vacant dad.”

3)    I’m thankful for every single parent out there raising a child with special needs alone- and doing whatever it takes to find the time and resources to do so.

4)    I’m thankful for all the bleary-eyed, sleep deprived moms and dads who are dying to themselves daily and laying down their lives for their children.

5)    I’m thankful for the parents working multiple jobs to pay for therapies, medical bills, and the day-to-day expenses of having a child with special needs.

6)    I’m thankful for every mom who through a muffled pillow cries herself to sleep at night so her kids won’t hear her, and then gets up in the morning to boldly face the world.

7)    I’m thankful for every parent who chooses to believe his or her child is wonderfully made, created for a plan and a purpose, and destined to glorify God.

8)    I’m thankful for every special needs family who says, “This is our normal, and this is just how we roll!”

9)    I’m thankful that God chose us and then He called us to be parents of a child with special needs.

10) I’m thankful for every special needs child who teaches us the essence of grace and unconditional love. In other words, who reveal to us the very nature of God himself.

11) I’m thankful God does not make us walk down this path alone, but goes before us, alongside us, and behind us.

12) I’m thankful God will never leave us, abandon us, or stop loving us.

13) I’m thankful for that coming day when He will wipe away all tears and sorrow. There will be no more death or pain, for He will make all things new.

14) I’m thankful that autism, cerebral palsy, Downs, seizures, and every other special needs will cease to exist in one glorious moment.

15) And I am especially thankful for all of you. The simple thing to say is, “I get it.” I am one of you, and I’m thankful that we are doing this life together. You are all super heroes. Mom, dad, and your children—you inspire me, encourage me, teach me, and bless me.

16) I’m thankful that I get to live in the same house as Wonder Woman and Superman.

Happy thanksgiving. You are chosen and most highly favored.

--Jeff Davidson

Legacy

jon alexs walk of fame star

 

This weekend we attended the memorial service for the dad of my friend Steve. Steve is a pastor friend of mine, and also the father of two children with special needs himself.

Steve was sharing some of his favorite stories about his dad throughout the service. His love, respect, and admiration for his late father were so evident as he eulogized his dad with tears streaming down his face and his voice soft and tender.

At the end of his moving remarks though, he said something that made me look up and take note.

Steve said his father didn’t leave a lavish estate, a big inheritance, or a nice car. The legacy he left, that mattered the most to Steve, was that his father had been proud of him. He said knowing how great a man his dad was, and knowing that his dad was proud of him as his son, was something to be treasured and would never be forgotten.

There is something inside of a man that always wants his dad to be proud of him. It’s with us from the moment we are born; we want our dad to be proud of the man we become, and to know how much they value us as their sons.

A few months ago during a particularly rough and testing season for us as a special needs family, I took a quick walk on the dark side and threw myself a pity party. I questioned my calling, my purpose, and whether I was making a difference.

My dad, who is not an expressive man at all with his emotions, sent me a card telling me how proud he was that I had chosen this path for my life, and he could not be more pleased that I was his son.

I sat in my office and openly wept that afternoon. I still keep the card in my right hand desk drawer.

I get asked all the times by parents of children with special needs how to get dads more involved and engaged. Here’s an easy way Dads.

Dads, your words contain the power of life and death.

Every night I tell my son how proud I am that he is my son. I tell him God chose me for him, and him for me. I tell him he will never have to do anything in his life to make me more proud of him or love him more. I love him simply because he is my son.

Parents, you have got to be speaking words of life over your kids every day. Your kids will believe whatever you say about them. Your child will become whatever he or she believes. And what they believe about themselves will be determined by what you speak over them. So make a point, every day, to speak positively and affirm your child.

At 16 my son is non-verbal. Barring a miracle, he won’t be able to stand up at my funeral and tell the world how proud I was of him.

But rest assured…he knows it.

And that’s all that matters.

We can talk about it in heaven some day.

World View

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Sometimes he has this look on his face like he sees things that we don’t see.

He tilts his head to the side and grins softly, as if heaven is playing a song just for him. He twirls his fingers to the music.

Early in the morning I can hear him over the monitor making sounds and expressions none of us can understand. I think he is talking to God in a language only the two of them can understand.

Sometimes I think Jon Alex sees angels. Sometimes I think he hears the music coming from heaven’s chorus. Sometimes I think he talks to God…and God talks back to him.

Sometimes I get jealous of his world.

Oftentimes we describe our children with autism as “living in their own world.”

Their senses are overly acute in many instances to touch, sound, sights, smells and the tactile evidence of the world around them. And they can seem far more interested in their world than in ours.

Maybe they really aren’t living “in their own world.” Maybe they are living in the world as it was originally created.

My son Jon Alex lives in a world of unconditional love and acceptance. In his world grace abounds, loves triumphs over all, and contentment can often be found with the simplest of things.

His world is one of purity, simplicity, innocence, and goodness.

I’m jealous of his world.  His world isn’t polluted by envy, jealousy, pride and hatred.  His world is enticing.

Maybe we are the ones living in our own little world.

Have you ever been mesmerized by a child with autism and wondered what they were thinking, or what was going on in their mind?

Have you ever looked at that child and wondered if they were thinking the same thing about you?

When you have been puzzled by their behavior or baffled by their routine, have you ever wondered if they feel the same way about your behavior or routines?

When you have struggled with their personality traits that can seem peculiar, have you ever wondered if they feel the same way about some of your personality traits that seem so peculiar to them?

Maybe we are the ones living in “another world.”

I know I have learned far more about the nature and character of God from my son, than he has learned from me.

Doesn’t surprise me when I think about it after all.

I suspect he talks to God a lot more than I do.

All those mornings at 4:00am when I hear my son making sounds over the monitor, the only person up that early is God anyway.  I guess they like to hang out together.

In their world…