Rebecca Baxer —
Going on 18 years ago a gorgeous baby boy was about to be born. The second of my children at that stage of my life, he was anticipated. Loved. Much dreamed about. All the questions that came up as I discovered I was pregnant again, then that he was a boy, a big boy. What would life be like as a mum of 2 little people under the age of 18 months old?! How would I cope? What would his birth be like?
I had lots of thoughts and emotions rushing around in my heart and my head. I felt reasonably confident in my ability to do this. Nervous and excited all rolled into one. If you have ever been blessed to be a parent then you’ll know.
What I didn’t know was that my little guy would spend the better part of 2 years screaming every time he was put into water. Bath times were breaking this mum’s heart. What I didn’t know was that my little guy would struggle to meet the eyes of people, including me. That for years he would barely ever smile. That he would take years to use the words we take for granted, to be able to express his internal frustration at not being able to process the world around him the same way neurotypical people would.
What I didn’t know for years was that my gorgeous little man would eventually be diagnosed with Autism. And with that word came great grief and great relief all bundled into an emotion charged flurry of activity. I had to learn. I had to understand. I had to work through my feelings of guilt, of anger, of sorrow…I had to help family understand him. To organise early intervention to help him. But one thing I didn’t have to learn was to LOVE him.
This precious little guy was and is so loved. I watched him thrive as he discovered his unique abilities. He was determined, focused, and boy did he have a story to tell. He was changing people’s hearts one interaction at a time.
Today that little guy is a 17 year old young man. He loves to help people. Just ask any of his church family. He will be one of the first to volunteer his strong arms and willing back. His well – practiced smile is such a delight to see, and would melt the hardest of hearts. His enthusiasm for life is just the type of reminder I so regularly need. And if you ask that young athlete to run something from one side of our country town to the other he will be off in a flash, as though my boy-man has wings on his feet, joy in his heart!
Today is Autism awareness day. I don’t know if today is a day of fear for you. A day of frustration, of questions, lack of answers, answers overload, anxiety, grief, thanksgiving. But what I do know is this.
You are not alone
Friends and strangers have walked, limped, cried, run, crashed, laughed, picked themselves up, tried again, and again and again, to traverse this path. Some have done it before you. And they’ll do it behind and beside you too.
If I have learnt anything from the last 17 plus years it is this: we don’t need to be afraid to invite others to do this journey with us. Because then we can hope, laugh, cry and inspire TOGETHER. And as we include God as part of that rollercoaster of a journey, Hope and Love are just that little bit easier.
LOVE is a great teacher. It helps us to pursue understanding, kindness, gentleness, self-control. To have Joy filled hearts. To exhibit patience. To make a choice daily to walk beside the people who challenge our perceptions. Who may show us a mirror of our attitudes and potentially bring so many challenges into our lives. Who get us thinking outside the box, and expand the way we understand the world.
So here’s to all the out of the box people! Let LOVE be a catalyst for changing attitudes. For deeper desire to understand. And for sharing our lives with vulnerability, grace, and a double dose of enthusiasm! Let’s all #loveourautisticneighbour