It started like every other night. The same instructions had been given. The same arguments had been repeated. We sat down and pulled open the devotion book, but we never read past the date – April 2nd.
I hesitantly asked the kids if they knew it was World Autism Awareness Day. They looked interested, so I took it a bit further. “You’ve heard the word, ‘autism,’ many times. But do you know what it means?” They shook their heads and wanted to know more.
It was happening. We had anxiously anticipated this moment for four years.
When would we tell our son about his autism? How? We decided several years ago to slowly, inch by inch, lay the groundwork. We wanted the kids to have a firm foundation in knowing everyone is different. We wanted them to be solid on the fact we are each created so beautifully and wondrously and intricately and intentionally. We wanted them to be practiced in loving others and seeing past differences to the heart and soul.
We talked about what autism is, how it can make some things easier and other things more challenging, and we discussed some common experiences of those living life on the spectrum. Then I simply asked if it sounded like anyone we might know. I could see his wheels turning.
And right there in the middle of our messy living room with the laundry piled high and the dinner dishes still on the table and the trash waiting to be taken out, with us and the dog all squished together on the couch, it happened. It started with his eyes. They looked brighter. After five or so minutes, he looked older somehow. He eagerly asked, “Mom? DoIhave autism?”
I took a shaky breath and said, “Yes, buddy. You do What do you think about that?”
And he knew.
Just like it happened to us when we received his diagnosis, his life began flashing before his eyes. He was seeing it all with a fresh understanding. His filter had changed.
And he understood.
He told me about how the hard things he now knows were the challenging parts of his autism. We talked about how far he’s come and how much he’s overcome.
How he has done the hard things, and how he can continue to do the hard things.
And he was proud.
He went to bed that night having diagnosed our dog with autism as well. “She loves her toy like I love trains.” Any loneliness he might have felt dissolved away in the solidarity of puppy kisses. He woke the next morning, ready to share his awesome with the world.
Ashley Doyle Pooser is a Coordinator of Killearn United Methodist Church MOPS in Tallahassee, Florida. When she isn’t busy getting lots of on-the-job training from her two kiddos (ages 8 and 5), she can be found documenting some of motherhood’s beautiful messes and faith lessons at ashleydoyleposer.com.