Last night we went to Chili’s for dinner (yay for free kids’ meal coupons!). We go early so we can get a booth because it’s easier to keep James in a booth than in a chair. And he did a great job being in the booth, just not necessarily sitting in the booth. He had a song on his heart (the theme to Gilmore Girls) and wanted to sing it out. I snapped a few pictures before Lee pulled him down and told Lee, “It’s autism awareness month. He’s just doing his part to make sure everyone is aware.”
The newest autism numbers came out last week and they are 1 in 68, 1 in 42 boys. So I’m pretty sure there aren’t many people in America who aren’t aware of autism.
Today, instead of asking you to be aware, I’m asking you to care. Put faces with the statistics. Everyone’s autism looks different because it is a spectrum disorder and each person with autism falls at a different place on the spectrum. For every fifteen year old you see on ESPN who shot the winning basket for his team, there’s even more fifteen year olds who are unable to even say “mom” or “dad.”
Here’s what autism looks like for us: at six years old, James is still in diapers. He can’t answer yes or no questions. He can’t draw a circle. He jumps and climbs on every piece of furniture. He only eats Goldfish crackers, pizza, fruit, cereal, and a couple vegetables. No meat. He does not play with kids his age. He tries to eat paper and rocks. He often wakes up at 3am and doesn’t go back to sleep. He is unaware of dangerous situations so we have to hold his hand when we’re in parking lots or anywhere he might bolt.
He is also very lovable, and likes to be held and tickled. He knows all his letters and can count to 20. He loves to spell his name and do puzzles. Every week he learns new words and skills in school where he gets speech therapy, occupational therapy, and behavioral therapy. He likes to go to church and see his teachers and helpers. He’s learned to pray when we eat, saying, “Dear God. . . thank you day. . . bless food. . . Amen, cool!” He likes to look through his favorite books. Each day he tries hard to put on his own shoes, brush his teeth, and wash his hands.
This is what autism looks like for our family right now. We don’t know what it will look like in ten years or twenty years. Truth is, it could look very similar to what it looks like now. At fourteen he may still like watching preschool cartoons. At twenty-four he might not be eating chicken strips or hamburgers.
But God’s grace is sufficient today and years of tomorrows. We trust in that.
James is 1 of the 68 who need you to do more than just be aware, he needs you to care. Thanks for caring enough today to get to know him!