I did not know that it was useless to pretend it wasn’t there.
I secretly knew for many months that she was touched by autism. But I hoped that if no one noticed – that if we could “just make it to age 3” with no one saying the word out loud – that we would have somehow escaped its grip.
I did not know that some people never speak.
When she first started getting speech therapy I recall saying to my husband, “We should stop worrying so much! I mean, I remember kids in school who had trouble talking. They would get pulled out of the room to go to Speech class… but they turned out just fine. Everyone speaks eventually.”
But in fact, 8 in every 1000 men, women and children are unable to verbally express emotions, feelings and needs.
I did not know that it might not go away.
Soon after Rhema was diagnosed at the age of two, I attended a conference. During the break, a woman sitting next to me showed me a photo of her 11-year old daughter who had autism. I was confused and disheartened. What is she doing here? Why would she be at this conference? Is her 11-year old still affected? I had just assumed that my child would outgrow the diagnosis by age 3 or 4.
I did not know that three years later she would still seem to have no concept of holidays and birthdays and how that would sadden me.
I did not know that there might be more than meets the eye when a child is melting down in a public place. And it just might not be a sign of a spoiled kid or bad parenting.
I did not know that “smart” people had children in special education classes.
I did not know that the standard definition of autism leaves so much out; that it is indeed pervasive. (But how could they include it all?) That a disorder that impairs a person’s ability to communicate can also mean feeding issues, sensory disorders, sleeping problems, behavioral and anxiety issues, learning disabilities, motor problems, seizure disorders.
I did not know that I was not exempt from suffering… and that one day I would be thankful I was not exempt.
I did not know how sweet it is to offer a sacrifice of praise and song of hope when your heart has been broken.
I did not know that “faith never looks so grand in summer weather as it does in winter.”
I did not know that God could truly give me beauty for ashes, strength for fear, the oil of joy for mourning, and peace for despair. (Isa. 61:3)
I did not know that I would be blessed to meet such extraordinary people as a result of my daughter’s disability – people that have enriched our lives and shown us the closest thing to the perfect love of Christ.
I did not know that throughout the daily struggles of mothering a child with special needs, I could truly look to God and His Word to provide grace for every moment, to sustain my soul and refresh my spirit.
I did not know I could be so brave.
I did not know that my husband and I could go so low, weather this continual storm, and still find a greater intimacy.
I did not know that God could speak through a child with no words. But He does. Everyday.
Thank you, Lord, for teaching me the things I did not know.