Eighteen years ago, I had never heard of Asperger’s Syndrome, otherwise known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Little did I know that when I brought home my sweet little bundle of joy, that this condition would leave a life-long impression on my family. I had no idea just how different my son would be. I’m convinced that God isn’t finished using my experiences with my Aspie and the people he comes into contact with, to teach me to rely on Him.
I pretty much thought I had it all together. I was successfully homeschooling my two older children, ran a home business, and still had enough time left over to play an active role in my church. Although life wasn’t perfect, I took pride in my ability to juggle all my responsibilities. I believed my children were living proof that I was doing everything right and things were going to according to the plan. Little did I know God had a very different plan for my family and me.
Along Came an Aspie
The illusions of perfection faded away shortly after my youngest son was born. From day one, he interacted with the world very differently. He didn’t like to be cuddled or held tightly. As he grew, he developed slowly, especially with speech and hand-eye coordination. He was fascinated with toys that spun and was mesmerized by all things Japanese. When it came time to go to school, he struggled with toilet training and lacked fine motor skills necessary to use a pencil, crayons, and scissors like other children. I frequently received phone calls from the school asking me to pick him up because he’d had another meltdown and wouldn’t come out from underneath his desk. This child did not fit into my vision of having it all together.
Taking it Personally
As the incidents continued to escalate in their frequency and severity, I grew increasingly embarrassed that my child was out of control. I was convinced that teachers and other parents were judging me for my son’s behavior. Surely if I were a good parent, my son wouldn’t behave this way. I decided to take matters into my own hands and had my son diagnosed with ADHD. He went on a parade of prescription medications and entered into a ten-year stretch where we continued battling with behavioral incidents and academic challenges. The medication never seemed to help and I continued to frustrate myself with attempts to shape my son into my version of who I thought he should be. My son became bitter and resentful towards me and I was exhausted.
Once my son hit adolescence, it became clear that his challenges surpassed those of the typical ADHD kid. After a full neuro psych evaluation, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) amongst other things. As usual, I immersed myself in learning everything I could in order to see what I could do to fix my broken Aspie child. What I learned broke my heart and shattered my dreams for his future. There are no medications to treat ASD and early diagnosis is key in interventions and successful outcomes. He was ten years behind in receiving a correct diagnosis and there weren’t many options available to help him. I felt as if we had been handed a death sentence. In a way, it was a death sentence. The unrealistic plans I had for my child had died.
Up to this point, I felt like a failure, detached from my child, and had lost all hope. At times, I felt like God was unfairly punishing me for something. To make matters worse, my son had been expelled from traditional school and I was certain he would not make it in private school. No longer welcome in a traditional school setting, he was feeling rejected, lonely, unloved, misunderstood, and broken. I realized my parenting strategies had been unsuccessful thus far and a change in course was warranted. After going through periods of grief, anger, blame, and resentment, I made a conscious decision to change my perspective. Instead of confronting my Aspie with the need to be different, I began looking at him as God’s perfect handiwork. He was no longer a possession to be controlled and changed. The result was that I was able to accept the gift of an Aspie child and provide him with what he needed; a mother’s acceptance and unconditional love. This was what made it possible for us to move on.
Accepting my Aspie
Once I changed my perspective, I began reshaping the vision I had of my son. I began to question my beliefs of what a normal child looks like, how they behave, and what they are like when they grow up. Watching the other non-Aspie adults around me struggle at life, I realized that each individual faces their own challenges, whether spiritual, neurological, physical, or emotional. My son was no different; this was his normal and these were his challenges. Accepting him for who is and the way God made him has made all the difference for me. Eventually, I was able to model this for him to the point that he has come to accept himself too. What a deep sense of peace it has been to let go of the unrealistic expectations that tormented us all those years.
Unconditionally Loving an Aspie
Letting go of my own agenda and accepting my Aspie for who he is, opened the doors to harmony in our relationship as mother and son. Although it hasn’t always been easy, I have been very intentional in finding ways to show my son unconditional love, especially during times when I would have previously withheld it to protect myself. Switching gears to take an opposite approach has provided many opportunities for me to show God’s unconditional love and has helped to restore the bond between my son and me.
Resting in God’s Plan for my Aspie
In our modern culture, we tend to promote a fictitious belief that there is a preferred path that everyone should take. We even go so far as believing that if we take this path, we will live a blessed and trouble-free life. The problem with this mentality is that it is oftentimes motivated by fear and selfish ambition while taking the focus off of God. My son and I have left our fears and selfish ambitions behind in order to open the door to the path God has set before us.
Once I changed my perspective, some pretty amazing things have happened. I’m very pleased to say that the grim situation he faced when he was expelled from school is a thing of the past. Over time, my Aspie was able to accept his disability and found the inner motivation to advocate for himself and move forward with his education. Although he didn’t take the traditional school path, he earned his high school diploma a year ahead of schedule and is attending a local community college. He has hopes that, one day, he may be able to do research in physics. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that finding peace in God’s plan has certainly done our family far more good than forcing my selfish plan on my Aspie.
If your family is tired of struggling with these types of challenges, I encourage you to start by taking a step back and resting in God’s plan. Accept the challenges in your life as normal for you, let go of your unrealistic expectations, and shower your child with God’s unconditional love. Sometimes this means letting go of your agenda to allow you to spend more one-on-one time with your child. Also, providing your child with an academic environment where they can develop and grow according to God’s timeline can make a world of difference. Consider taking advantage of Enlightium Academy, an online private Christian homeschool that allows students to work at their own pace with a flexible schedule. The affordable tuition, individualized curriculum, and simple admissions process maintains the advantages of a home school education while also preparing students for whatever the future holds.