The gift of autism?

A friend posted a link to my last blog in which I wrote,

“On the day my daughter was diagnosed with autism I got a gift. I got the gift of seeing God do abundantly more than I could ever think or imagine, over and over again, for the rest of her life. I got the gift of uncommon, huge joy in “ordinary” miracles. I got the gift of cherishing every big-little healing step.”

Some people responded that autism is NOT a gift; that we should not romanticize autism and its challenges.

Anyone who has been around this blog for a minute knows I share the good, the bad, and the crazy. But the Facebook comments caused me to wrestle again with my own flip-flopping thoughts and emotions.

Take yesterday, for example. It included an embarrassing scene on the hospital elevator, 4 clothing changes because she pooped in her pants and chewed holes in her shirts, a near death experience on a busy city street, and me declaring to her neuro who hadn’t seen her in 6 months, that yes, she’s still nonverbal. I saw the loss, how painfully different she was from other kids, how she struggled with the transition of simply walking from the doctor’s office to the waiting room, and I wanted to scream bloody murder at the autism monster.

The same day included my girl climbing into my lap and breathing slurpy Rhema-kisses on my face. The two of us, nose to nose, hummed London Bridge for ten blessed minutes. I cannot separate her from the autism, and I love everything about her.

This is a journey I would never, ever choose. I have more questions than answers. But I do know, for us, part of the hope in the struggle is that it brings us to our knees, opens our eyes to God, magnified. And He is providing the grace for empathy, the ability to love each other/others in a manner that I daresay was previously unavailable to us. Indeed, He gives beauty for ashes.

On the phone the husband and I tried to think through it out loud. About the autism and the seizure disorder, he said,

“I don’t like it. I maybe hate it. But even that I can give to God. This whole package, with joy and sadness entwined, I’m learning to embrace it all. It’s a purposeful decision. To give thanks in everything. To be faithful in the waiting.”

Brandon loves this song by Laura Story, a young woman whose husband battles brain cancer:


I want, I need to hold on to this gifted perspective.

What do you think? Are there gifts in your life that have disguised themselves as tragedies or setbacks?

19 thoughts on “The gift of autism?

  1. I was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in ’06. Biggest tragedy in my life. Being told that only 4% survive was a setback. Learning to think and act and believe are my gifts. Using my strength and humor to combat doom is a powerful tool. My belief system and my friends are my rocks.

    I love that she hums London Bridge while giving you Rhema kisses.

    May Peace and love reign over you and yours.

  2. seeing the gift…is a gift, and the way you share it with us, reminds us of our gifts, too. The hair pulling, cap-wearing, snotty, poopy, reality. It may not be the gift you would have chosen. It is the gift you were given. May God continue to give you the grace to see the beauty, share the beauty, and endure the struggles.

  3. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure….. Rhema and her autism to YOU is a gift, your treasure! Some may not see it that way (their junk) but they are not looking through your glasses or experiences to see the gift despite the challenges that come fourth. All God is doing in this, is making you better people to see the good in the bad. Rhema is a special gift God gave your family…and you have done what God has Challenged you to do, “EMBRACE IT”!

  4. Afraid that if I begin to comment I’ll end up writing a book. 🙂 You know I feel the same. I am thinking lately about how Christ is the ultimate prize, that anything that brings me and mine to Him is worth it…holding on to the promise that these are light and momentary troubles in comparison to the glory of the future. You and yours live in my prayers, friend.

  5. You do a beautiful job sharing genuinely your reality and your perspective even when life is filled with tough, tough challenges. No mistaking through your words over years that you would never have chosen for Rhema to live with autism. Yet your choice to see joy (gifts) that have come to you and your family through it is something I love about you.

  6. You never said that Rhema’s autism is a gift…but clearly the journey, the experience, the struggles are the gift. To me that is a profound difference. And though this may have sparked a little controversy, it is through open and honest dialogue from different perspectives that can enrich this experience for us all, and help us find strength, joy and purpose in common ground.

  7. In my experience, the more I resist my child’s autism, the harder it is for me and for her. The more “against” it I am the more miserable we are. I am not a perfect person. I have my limits. I get frustrated. But when I see autism as a gift, all the learning she has given me, all the beauty that she IS, when I trust that it is FOR me, and that nothing is against me, that’s when we move forward, finding the very therapies teachers, etc. that help her. It’s a delicate balance. I don’t know that any parent will ever be okay with their child suffering. And I understand those who are angry about it. There have been days when I have not been able to see it as a gift. Particularly when she hurts.

    I admire you for being able to see the gift amidst the poop. I admire your faith. I admire how much you love your girls. And I honor you for being the mother you are. Call it what you want and let others call it what they want. You are the author of your own story.

  8. give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.1 Thes. 5:18
    Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

  9. Oh sweet Jeniel…..I have been reading every single one of your post…..I am like Jett…I start to write a response and they end up like books. So rather than responding I have been sitting in your words. Your writing is like a beautiful present under the Christmas tree. You look at it for days…….you pick it up… examine it….sit next to it….and if we wait long enough…. the gift you give to me …to us….well it unwraps itself. You help us to see our children. Through the grace of God we witness miracles every day. Our eyes are opened to these miracles because autism is a part of our children. Our children are the teachers of empathy, acceptance, and hope. And through your Rhema and through your writing we can learn to “give it all to God.”….the joys and the tears…..and I thank you. So is autism a gift? My Dawson is a gift. Autism is a part of him. It is woven into every fiber of his being. It makes his eyes shine bright when he gigles and it can leave him curled up naked on the floor when he has an “off day”….but a gift indeed….one I would have never put on my Christmas list….but one I would never exchange. Every day he unwraps himself a little more….and the gift that it my son is revealed to me…..the marble eating, painting the playroom floor, floating on his back in the pool, giggling about Baby Einstein videos is revealed. And I thank you for helping me see it. Okay… I wrote a book. Holding you all in my prayers.

  10. i was talking to God about this the other day… still waiting to meet my husband at the age of 37 and coming to terms with the fact that i may never bear children…

    but i did come to the conclusion that i would never be where i am right now if he had given me what i (thought i/think i) wanted. i would never have this close relationship with God, would have never learned to reclaim my purity, would have never learned to find my sufficiency in him and him alone, would have never felt so strong and confident and taken so many “risks”… so it’s a gift.

    even though i never would have put it on my wish list.

    but yes, it’s still a (not-always-easy) choice to see it that way.


  11. I think its beautiful, and so very pleasing to God, that you choose to “look at the bright side!” We are in this world for now, this fallen world that is full of sickness & death & heartbreak. And I can’t imagine that anything makes our Father God smile bigger or be more proud of us than when we look at what this world & the evil around us has thrown at us, & we praise our God, knowing that He is greater than our circumstances. Autism isn’t a gift, but our children certainly are! And autism is a part of them. Thank you for your honesty & your words that are always a balm to my heart. I’m so glad that you are my sister in Christ, & I thank our God for you & your family. Praying for you all!

  12. shame on anyone for discouraging you and casting their judgement on you for your last post. your strength and positivity know no bounds and your spirit is inspiring. Rhema is just that– Rhema. Austism does not define her or who she is. you didn’t choose her autism, but you CAN choose how you tackle it… and you tackle it with LOVE & GRACE. If you want my opinion, the world would be a much better place if others could see things the way you do.

  13. First of all, I’m with MNM – I just don’t understand how fellow parents can criticize each others’ individual choices, beliefs, and viewpoints. We have so much to learn from each other, so much to gain. Okay, off soapbox.
    Secondly, I completely agree that there are many hidden gifts in tragedies – my dad’s death from cancer brought feuding family members back together, which is something he had always prayed for. Nigel’s autism and epilepsy have taught me to be a more patient, involved, and appreciative parent than I might otherwise have been. And I have the gift of wonderful cherished friends like you. xo

  14. For Jack, autism seems to make everything so hard. I cannot celebrate his suffering. But I’m thankful that my heart and eyes have been opened by living this unexpected life. And I refuse to tell anyone how they should feel about their own experience. Less judgement. More support.

    Love you. Please thank Brandon for his perspective too..

  15. We are not Home yet. I will hear my Rhema talk to me on the Day we, as a family, are Home with our LORD. Until then, I wait with great anticipation…and thank Him for His blessings which will work out for our (and Rhema’s) good.

  16. Our infant son was stillborn in ’04. People told me” its for the best” and “there was probably something wrong with him”. These statements were (and are) ridiculous, because I love him and would have accepted him however he came into this world. (I also learned that people mean well, but they say ignorant things when they don’t know what to say.) My two precious girls were diagnosed with autism in May of ’06. My son, Seth, taught me to love and cherish them in any and all circumstances. Autism stinks. It is not the path I would have chosen for my daughters, but this is the path laid before us and I thankfully walk it with them. Thankfully, because we walk it together.

  17. I think that often the only way we can make sense of the hard in this life is to accept that it doesn’t make sense to us, but it does to Him. Then we can let go of trying and embrace every moment good and bad remembering the purpose is always to bring God the glory. I love Gabby Douglas’ statement after winning gold in the olympics the other night. She said something to the effect that it’s a win-win situation, the glory goes to God and the blessings fall on her. That is embracing life…good and bad, even the heart-wrenching, soul-pressing, gut-kicking parts can be a gift if we look at the big picture. There is much…MUCH…in my life that I cannot make sense of and that I don’t like. There are things that bring me to my knees and make me want to curl up in a fetal position until Jesus comes back. Yet, I trust and I hope and I purpose to see the gifts hidden in even the darkest moments. Those who have a great life, a happy life, a fulfilled and purposeful life are not without struggle. It’s through the struggles and the choice to embrace it all that they get to that happy, fulfilled and purposeful place.
    Also, since I’m writing a book…my 2 cents is that Autism may not be a gift, but our children ALWAYS ARE no matter what level of struggle they encounter.
    I am thankful for all that you share here in this space…it is an honor to pray for you through the tough stuff, to smile and laugh through the sweet and funny, to rejoice with you through milestones reached and hope with you for milestones to come. Much love to your family today, Jeneil.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s