In celebration of Autism Awareness Month, I wanted to share with you a letter expressing some of what I would want my son to know. My son is 9 years old and happens to be on the autism spectrum. I pray that through my words to him you are able to see my heart and that it gives you insight into the hopes, challenges, and blessings that I experience as a mother to this precious boy. But most of all I pray that you can see the heart that God has for all individuals. After all, every one of us is fearfully and wonderfully made in His image.
My Sweet Boy,
Out of all the moms in the world, God chose to bless me by giving me you. You are wonderfully made, and He thoughtfully chose each detail as He put you together. When I held you in my arms for the very first time, I knew that I could never begin to imagine the amazing things God had in store for your life. I also never imagined the things I would be challenged to teach you, the things you and I would teach others about you, or the things you would be teaching me.
My boy, when you hear a slow song at church remember that even though you think it sounds sad, it doesn’t have to make you sad. You have your very own feelings and they don’t have to be controlled by the tempo of a song. Remember you don’t have to cut exactly on the lines in order for us to see the shape. You can try new things and make mistakes.
It’s so important to me that you are safe. We have practiced how important it is for you to check with me before you run up to a dog you don’t know at the park. We need to say hi to this four-legged friend together, and we always ask permission first. It’s important for you to keep your body in the group when we go places, and if you hear your name being called please respond by saying “I’m right here!” or “I’m Ethan!” Please remember that we can’t walk on the very edge of the sidewalk because there are cars that drive fast and if you slip you could get hit. It’s never safe to open the door to someone you don’t know. I know that the knocking and doorbell ringing bothers your ears, but you need to let mommy or daddy answer the door.
Remember those moments when you were so brave and worked really hard to try something new. Even though it took us seven years, the dentist isn’t as scary as you thought. It’s easy to sit in that chair and let her “count” your teeth. You were really brave when you got on that new ride at the theme park, and I was so excited you liked it. We watched videos and talked about it ahead of time, and you nailed it! Your brothers were so happy that they got to go on the ride with you.
Remember that others need to know you are listening to them. So, when someone is talking, turn your body in their direction. Please know that hearing you use your words is one of the biggest highlights of my day. I know how hard your brain is working to say what you are thinking and the effort you make to keep the words in order, but it’s so worth it to use these words. They help connect you to others and give you a voice.
I want you to know that going to church is important and that Jesus wants a relationship with you. These are just a few things that come to mind when I think about what I want you to know.
Please check back on Friday for part 2 of this blog post.
Marisa Altamirano is a passionate advocate for children who are uniquely abled. She serves as the director of the special needs ministry at VantagePoint Church. Marisa is a wife and mom to three wonderful boys, one of whom has autism.