I sometimes have the opportunity to listen to parents who are beginning the journey of having a child with autism, and I often hear the same concern. The parent, and often the child, feel a sense of depression, lack of worth, and shame. Many of my readers know that I have a seven year old daughter named Julia who is a creative, intelligent, beautiful and dynamic autistic angel. In family gatherings she often steals the show with her love for drama, vibrant imagination and determined personality. And I am profoundly grateful that God blessed her with autism, which gives her so many more positive attributes than handicaps.
When I first approached her pediatrician with the idea that she may be autistic the doctor flippantly told me that Julia was not autistic and that her behavior was the result of my being an unfit mother. Julia being my first child, I had no reason to doubt this and poured more and more energy into helping her deal with her screaming fits in which she thrashed around on the floor and sometimes even hurt herself in the process. I literally dripped sweat in exhaustion and frustration on a daily basis while little Julia made it evident she didn't want mommy to hold or cuddle her. But after I had my neurotypical son and observed the difference in behavior between the two and when Julia was three and still could not say verbs or full sentences the doctor saw the error of her ways and loaded me up with resources for autistic children. It was as though 10, 000 tons had lifted from my shoulders.
Many people suggested and even insisted that I read book after book on autism, study Dr. Temple Grandin and the like. I refused. Having that extra time working with Julia one on one before I gained an army of therapists to help was precious in the sense that it gave me the perspective to better understand one thing. My daughter is not a textbook. She is not a problem. She is not a handicap. She is herself with a passionately willed personality and a determination to take over the world. Her autism gives her a creativity and imagination all her own and a photographic memory to help her attain the knowledge requisite to turn her dreams into reality. Most of the inventors, engineers and scientists in the history of the world were autistic, and in great measure these are the dynamic souls so readily able to think outside the box that makes our civilization as we know it possible.