In a message I preached a few weeks ago, I shared the spiritual struggle I went through during the year that both of my boys were diagnosed with autism. As I reflected on it, I realized that it was ten years ago. In some ways it seems longer, in fact, it is hard to remember a time when our family life was not impacted in some way by the effects of autism. I have to admit, that life is a lot smoother now than it was ten years ago, but many of the behavioral stresses of those early years are no longer problems, such as one of the boys taking his seatbelt off and sticking his head out of the window while I was driving, the boys waking several times during the night and sometimes staying up all night, throwing toys out the car window and then screaming for me to go back and get it, and of course laying on the ground in public, yelling and crying.
My boys, now fifteen and eleven, have settled into a routine, and other than an occasional emotional breakdown, there are no major behavioral issues that create stress for me. Of course, there is the normal brotherly arguments and fighting over who gets to play video games first, or who gets the television remote; and I can’t count the times I’ve heard the complaint, “He’s touching me!” or, “He’s looking at me!” Now, there are definitely still many challenges, such as having to fix two or three different meals every night at supper, because they both are so particular and will only eat a small variety of food items. Yet, I don’t think much about it, because this has been a normal practice for so many years. There are a few things that both boys like, such as pizza, but Mitchel will only eat cheese, and Daniel insists on pepperoni. So when we order pizza we get it half cheese and half pepperoni and pray that no pieces of pepperoni are touching the cheese pieces or Mitchel will refuse to eat it.
I count myself as very fortunate. My boys are very loving, well behaved in public, they are polite and respectful to others, they both enjoy school, and they are growing into fine young men. It is a joy to watch them grow up, even though they are growing up way too fast for me! I know that there will be difficult days ahead, when my husband and I have to make decisions on whether they will be able to be independent adults or not, but I am thankful that God has surrounded us with caring family members and friends, who have continued to love and encourage us, who have cried with us in difficult times, and shared in our joyous moments as well. I am grateful to know that we do not journey alone, but in a community of fellow Christ-followers, who hold each other’s hands as we travel this road of life.