On a scale of 1 to 10—with ten being “Please, just stop,” and one being, “Sounds like something nice to say,” how would you rate saying, “Everything happens for a purpose,” as something useful to say to the parents of a child with autism?”
In her blog, The Mighty, Kathy Hooven, the mother of an autistic son, shares 12 Great Things to Say to Parents of Kids With Autism and, “Everything happens for a purpose,” is definitely not one of them.
This one is, and it’s my favorite: “My friend’s, sister’s, cousin’s, great aunt twice removed’s son has autism and he is in college now.” You gotta love Kathy’s response to this: “Yeah, we know that your friend’s, sister’s, cousin’s, great aunt twice removed’s son is not our child, and we know that autism is a spectrum of strengths and struggles, but, hearing success, hearing good news and having you share that in a kind, accepting and compassionate way, makes us love you, even if we don’t know you. I hope you like hugging strangers, because this may get you a really big one!”
Right on! As the grandmother of a still severely autistic child, now a young adult, I can unequivocally say that is exactly the type of response parents and family members need and love to hear.
I also know I may not be walking the same path or in the same shoes you’re wearing today, but I have my own pair of well-worn moccasins, perhaps similar to yours, and have a few words of additional encouragement to share during this month of Autism Awareness.
Things may be pretty rough for you right now. At this moment you may feel, as the authors of I Am in Here so eloquently state, you are pouring your love into a black hole where no light shines out. That may be your perceived or momentary reality, but hang in there. Your child’s autism changes as they grow—and love is never wasted.
All the literal blood, sweat and tears you are streaming into the life of your autistic child are making a difference, even if you can’t see it right now. Look at my granddaughter’s photo again. Isn’t she sweet, holding the newborn fawn her brother found abandoned in the woods behind their house? She is sweet, and especially so with animals—now. But what you don’t see in that photo is the child who used to stuff kittens into a duffle bag and think it was hysterical listening to them cry. How much better things have become with time, education and the consistent love and care provided by my daughter, special needs and medical professionals. Yes, there are still perfectly awful moments with melt-downs of epic proportions and frightening seizures, but life for my granddaughter and those whose lives her autism impacts is improving all the time. Just this week I shook my head in silent gratitude as I overheard my daughter calling out a reminder not to stay in the shower so long that the hot water runs out. Amazing! A reminder not to stay too long beneath a shower head being given to someone who formerly had to be physically restrained when her hair needed washing and screamed so long and so loud, neighbors called the police to investigate.
You may need to cry and scream into a pillow every now-and-then, but hold fast to the faith you have and don’t lose sight of the hope for better tomorrows. The time you spend living a loving life offers rewards here-and-now and will most certainly be rewarded in heaven one day. “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
Let a smile be your shield from the unknowing, awkward and inappropriate words of others. Take comfort in knowing you are being prayed for as I ask God to meet you at your specific point of need, blessing you today and in the days ahead, with unexpected moments of true affection and expressions of thankfulness from your autistic child.
Would you like to help support the efforts of the Autism Society of South Carolina? Click here and order a copy of Little White Squirrel’s Secret – A Special Place To Practice. A portion of all sales helps support that organization.
Click here for 12 Great Things to Say to Parents of Kids With Autism: