Thursday, April 2, 2009

World Autism Awareness Day

Today is World Autism Awareness Day and April is National Autism Awareness month, so I'm hoping to do several autism related posts this month. I'm going to kick it off with something I wrote quite a while ago. The following essay originated as a devotion for a Bible study I attended and then was reworked for submission for a book about God working in the lives of those with special needs. The reworked version was written about a year and half ago, when we started RDI. Sadly, the book project was put on hold (I think indefinitely), but instead of just letting it sit in my hard drive I've decided I will use this occasion to hopefully encourage you, whether or not you have been touched by autism.

One thing I think all parents of special needs children have in common is that we can quickly become consumed with those special needs. Recently I have been consumed with buying a camcorder so I can record therapy sessions with my son. I have spent countless hours reading through Consumer Report, checking prices online, and emailing other parents to find out what camera has worked best for them. While I am concerned about spending our money wisely, I think the real reason I have been so consumed with this purchase is because the therapy we will be filming is new for our son, and I want everything to be perfect. I’m excited about the possibilities this new therapy offers my son, but hesitant to get my hopes up too much. As opposed to other therapies we’ve used in the past, my husband and I are responsible for the implementation, so I worry that I will not do a good enough job. I have a knot in my stomach just thinking about it. And yet it reminds me of another time I had a knot in my stomach, and with that memory I am instantly comforted.

In August 2005 I took my son, Ryne, to his first day of kindergarten. Just about any parent will agree it is not easy to send a child to school for the first time, but this was more than first day jitters. Just three and a half years earlier I had been told that my son had autism. His speech was so impaired that we were told he might never talk. He would not make eye contact, and he was locked in his own little world. The future looked bleak, but God provided many opportunities for Ryne through intensive therapy, and slowly he began to speak words. Curiously, a year later he still could not spontaneously speak a two-word sentence, but he could sing entire songs with perfect pitch. My husband and I took every advantage of this chance to enter Ryne’s world by constantly singing with him. Ryne’s favorite song was the classic hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” At bedtime I would often cuddle with him and together we would sing the third verse over and over:

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine and ten thousand beside!

I often wondered why he loved that hymn so much. Did he have any idea how encouraging those words of peace and hope were for his weary mom? Did he know that every time we sang together I felt like God was right there with us cheering us on?

So that first day of kindergarten was the culmination of several years of prayer and dependence upon the Lord’s guidance. For many parents of young children with autism, goals of future independence, such as living on their own, seem too remote; so we instead focus on kindergarten. Ryne had improved so much that he was able to attend a regular kindergarten class with the help of an aide at the same small Christian school his older sister would be attending. At the time it seemed almost as if we had finished our journey. This was a new stage of life for Ryne, one that would no longer be dominated by autism. He would just be Ryne.

Being a Christian school, the first day of school always began with a chapel service that parents were invited to attend. I slipped into a seat in the back of the sanctuary, hoping to keep my toddler daughter quiet and still catch a glimpse of Ryne sitting with his class. He was radiating happiness, but I was consumed with thoughts of how he was really going to fit in. Had we done enough to prepare him? Would he thrive here?

And then the principle asked everyone to stand and open their hymnals. Any number of hymns would have been appropriate, but this hymn had been hand-picked by God. It was a good thing I was sitting in the back, because as the pianist began to play “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” I was completely flooded with emotion and cried through the entire hymn. God had really taught me what it means to trust in His faithfulness in the last few years.

I am sure that God provided that little miracle so that I would never forget His great faithfulness. It is so easy to do. We all have those times with our special needs children where we get consumed. It might be preparing for an IEP, learning about a special diet, dealing with difficult medical issues, trying to figure out how to pay for it all, wondering if our child will make friends, or just buying a new camcorder. When a person becomes consumed it means to fill one’s mind or attention. If we loose sight of God’s faithfulness it can lead to another definition of consume: to destroy completely. But listen to this great promise in Lamentations 3:22-23, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

God is faithful. He is faithful to parents of special needs children. He is faithful to our special children. It doesn’t mean we know what the future will bring. In fact, I now home school my three children. Does that mean God was not faithful since that wonderful little Christian school turned out not to be the perfect place for my children? Absolutely not! God’s faithfulness relates to His character, not my circumstances. He is faithful to be Himself and that is all I need. Reading on in Lamentations 3:24- 25, “I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” I’ve gradually learned to stop letting autism consume our lives. Autism is still here, but Ryne does get to be just Ryne now. Instead I try to be consumed with the things of God, learning what it means to wait quietly upon Him.

Whatever you are consumed with, give it to God and let Him be your portion, wait for Him, and put your hope in Him, because His faithfulness is great. He will give you strength for today, bright hope for tomorrow, and His blessings will be uncountable.

Please remember in your prayers all the individuals and families touched by autism. If you are interested
click here to access the Children of Destiny's 2nd annual Turning the Tide! prayer calendar, which gives scripture and suggested autism related prayers for each day this month.


  1. Wow. Thank you for sharing this. You really touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. This is what I needed to hear. Can I share this with others?

    You are a shining example of what a Christian woman should do when at the end of the day, you don't know how you got through...

    Oh times can be so wearying, yet God is faithful. Thanks for the reminder.


  2. You are so right! As difficult as autism is, I would never have seen God's faithfulness had my daughter been neurotypical . . .

  3. Jennie, yes, feel free to share! It something that I still need to be reminded of too. : )

    And Tammy, I agree -- autism provides so many opportunities to grow in Him.


  4. Kellie,

    I read this last night and just got a chance to comment. I had to come back and reread because it is such a beautiful,touching post.

    Thank you for sharing. How blessed you are to have your sweet Ryne and how blessed is to have you as a mom.

    This really should be published.

  5. This made me cry. Yours words are so touching and so true. I have seen a song be a connection for myself and our speech delayed 3yo many times. That Ryne's favorite was that hymn just brought me to tears of understanding that God IS faithful.
    I do not a have a child who's been diagnosed with Autism but I have found God teaching me this lesson as well. Thank you for putting it into words...

  6. THANK YOU, Kellie. I so needed to read this today.


  7. Kellie,

    This was beautiful to read and I started to cry as I read about the hymn they played at Ryne's school and it being his favorite!I'm sure he more than "fit in" at that time, he probably exceeded the others by being able to sing that whole song full of spirit! Thanks for sharing this inspiring story!


  8. Wow. Love this post! Love the difference of Consumed. I'll be thinking of that all day!

  9. Kellie, thank you for sharing this. This is one of my favorite hymns. God is so gracious, so comforting & it's in those small moments, through precious children like Ryne he demonstrates his wisdom, to people like me.
    I saw on your recent posts, curriculum choice 2010-11 & his 11the birthday post a glimpse of how these needs impact every choice in the day. Thank you for sharing. I'm not personally touched by autism in the way you are, but everytime I see a child now with special needs (there are 3 in Jack's homeschool Tae Kwon Do class-- including 2 autistic) I am reminded of Ryne, your commitment as a family & parents to allow God's glory to shine as bright as it can. Your trust in His faithfulness speaks to me today. Be blessed- Laura