“Are you sure?” She asked. “Yes, I am,” I answered. She and her husband leaned into my words. Unwavering and unbroken eyes filled with strength, vulnerability, confidence and dignity met mine. Without turning they reached out to one another and held hands. “Can you help us?” I nodded and took their hands in mine. “I believe in both my heart and my mind that your child is a perfect blessing. I can and will help you.”
The diagnosis of autism is given more often every year. The frequency of your newborn child being diagnosed with autism has increased 30% in two years. This is an estimated prevalence of one in 68 children and one in 42 boys. Although about one-third of children diagnosed with autism have an intellectual disability 23% have borderline intellectual disability and 46% score in the average or above average range of intellectual ability.
Children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) must be identified early if we are to ensure proper services for each child and every family. Early identification and intervention are the duty and responsibility of everyone. We must work together to deliver and coordinate the services every family deserves and requires. Each of us must find the time, energy and commitment to serve as thoughtful stewards to make this happen.
What can you do? First, you must believe. You must believe the diagnosis of autism is not a death sentence imposed on the weak, the less fortunate and the unwilling. This diagnosis is a blessing for us, the child and the family. Through understanding we can seek acceptance and allow the words autism spectrum disorder to fill our hearts and our minds with compassion, understanding and empathy.
When most people hear the word autism they see the words marginalization, limitation and grief rather than perfection, inclusion, opportunity and happiness. Children and adults with autism have been forged from love and designed for glory. Each of us has the responsibility to allow children and adults with autism to live a life not of perfection but rather of contribution. Every child and family who lives with this diagnosis blesses each of us with the opportunity to give more than to receive. They provide each of us the opportunities to learn to live life rather than manipulate life. They teach us to seek balance rather than success as well as the opportunity to create a life based on love and contribution rather than money, self-interest, praise and achievement.
Children and adults with autism provide each of us with the opportunity to discover and live a life filled with kindness, compassion and an understanding of both the perfection and equality found in life and death. The month of April is Autism Awareness Month. I challenge each of you to reach out to a family of a child, teen or adult with autism and share in this perfection.