Among the emails and messages you guys have been sending in was one from a precious mother of four, all with special needs. This mother wasn’t despairing for her children to become ‘normal’ but instead was desperate for others to accept each other and our ‘quirks’ – rather than strive for same-same. Whether a diagnoses says Autism, ADHD, APD or other ‘illnesses’, this mother is determined to celebrate the unique beauty each of her children have brought to the world.
And while we all have our own ways of approaching life and its curveballs, there’s so much strength in hearing from others, taking the opportunity to walk a mile or a moment in their shoes.
April is Autism Awareness month so it seems fitting to be celebrating those among us who, through Autism and other diagnoses, bring such beauty and diversity to those around them.
As the first in a series of ‘Her Story’ posts, I’m honoured to share the words of this mother, as she shares her story and her heart for her children.
All my kids have special needs. Our oldest has ongoing speech / APD. She’s the most empathetic child in the world. God has made a natural pastoral carer in her.
Our second child is deaf in one ear and has a hearing aid and uses a roger mike at school.
Our youngest two – twins – have been diagnosed with autism. I think I felt their differences from other kids from the time we started playgroup. They were diagnosed High-functioning autism last year in kindy. It’s a journey and it’s just beginning. God has his purposes. I love my kids as they are…
I love my kids as they are…
I studied with my kids in mind, and so I could help others struggling in areas of trauma, anxiety, depression, on a more personal level in empathy and therapy strategies. During behavioural studies last year is what helped me see it was autism in my kids. The eldest of my twins was the first to be diagnosed, followed by her sister who was also recently diagnosed ADHD/ ASD. The eldest is actually milder than the younger twin. The twins are extremely high in visual learning – Autistic kids can be the bestest of friends too – Just different.
Our artists, writers, engineers, sculptures are often ASD. Here’s a few; Steve Jobs, Dan Aykroyd, Hans Christian Anderson, Susan Boyle, Michelangelo… all on the autism spectrum, God has enabled them to create works that last generations. There are autistic women like Temple Grandin that also inspire me to allow my twins girls to use the strengths, that God gives autistic people in thinking outside-of- the-box, and tap into its amazing potential. It has its strengths, autism, and I see its beauty too. (Even if the meltdowns are hard, we can do it!) It has its strengths, autism, and I see its beauty too.
It has its strengths, autism, and I see its beauty too.
Post Natal Depression can creep up. Looking back, I had a period of it in the months after the twins were born. Keeping up with four little kids, with my husband away most weeks, it was tough.
I had no extra help during the week with feeding the twins and keeping the older two entertained, in speech therapy and doing the basics of mothering. Unfortunately, the people in my world are more stoic. Their view is to ‘suck it up.’ “You’re tough,” they’d say … or “You’re always so calm.” (So is a duck – until you look at its feet underwater).
I know what depression and anxiety are like. I too can function through depression and appear ‘normal’. (I no longer battle it, as I now work with good strategies and seeing the strengths God has blessed me with.)
While it gets better, I had to work to forgive these responses, which were quite unhelpful when I’d try to say something about how I was feeling.
I’ve battled being different from other girls as I have had my quirky differences – it’s a battle. I was used to being excluded from the girlfriend clicks. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m also mildly autistic (but that’s not been diagnosed).
Autistic women work hard at social skills by mimicking others, I see my twin girls doing it. As they grow, I hope they have friends who accept those quirks and understand them. Who needs constant eye contact anyway!
As a Christian, I know people pray for “cures” for autism. Some people blame vaccines because of an article that was written about 20 years ago (which has been proven to be untrue, and not related to autism). I have never once prayed for a ‘cure’ – it’s not a disease or brain damage.
I have never once prayed for a ‘cure’ – it’s not a disease or brain damage.
In prayer I’m more specific, I ask for God’s guidance in bringing out the best in them, empowering the girls through therapy in how to function a world not geared for them.
Autistic people can end up with anxiety and depression because of a lack of understanding and acceptance of the way they are, along the way. Going out their front door can pose all sorts of sensory problems and change. Being honest is helping acceptance, and removing stigma.
Being honest is helping acceptance, and removing stigma.
Like everyone else, an autistic person has their own personality, and approach to life situations, it’s not a face, or a ‘look’, it’s in repeated behaviours and ridged responses. Early interventions have been proven to help an autistic person in their struggles.
If you’d like to share your story, or even just start the conversation, I’d love to hear from you! My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m on Facebook and instagram as @wordsbyjoni. I’m looking forward to chatting, whichever way you choose to get in touch. x