“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”– Dr. Stephen Shore
As parents of children whose needs, behaviors and life trajectory are different from everyone else’s, our parenting journey can be lonely and isolating: an experience few truly understand.
Our children may present with a wide spectrum of abilities, strengths and needs. But we parents are on a spectrum, too: from the fresh terror of a diagnosis to coming to terms with our child’s adulthood — and inevitable future without us; from processing our grief to transitioning to emotional healing; from coping to hoping; from the blessing of abundance in resources and supports to the spiritual blessing of never having enough, yet leaning on the sufficiency of Christ; from teaching and supporting our children to realizing they teach and transform us; from despising autism as a curse to cherishing our children as gifts and blessings, exactly as they are.
As unique and far-ranging as our experiences may be, we also share universal struggles: practical matters of IEP advocacy, special diets, protocols, schedules and appointments, the unrelenting constraints of limited finances and resources, the stress on our marriages while juggling the needs of siblings, and rude comments from ignorant strangers while we manage triggers and meltdowns, including our own.
Deeper still, we ask, Why? Why did this happen? Why our child? Why us? Our experience may be one of dashed hopes and expectations, spiritual disillusionment, comparison and envy, estrangement and forgiveness, grief and loss, fatigue and frustrations, fear of the future, navigation of friendships, strained relationships (or bemoaning the lack thereof). Our lifestyle is one where we toggle daily between “love and loss; wonder and fear.”
Our children may have special needs. But we do, too.
“Parents of autistic kids get to tell the best stories.” writes author Kevin O’Brien. Despite their own stresses of autism-parenting, the contributors of Life on the Spectrum have banded together to share their hard-fought-and-won wisdom with you. They have discovered the reality God’s sustaining grace, throughall the mess and mystery.
Through their stories –nay, testimonies– that comprise Life on the Spectrum, I pray you find someone who “gets” you. Your pain, struggle, and confusion–conjoined with undying love, passion and devotion for your child– qualifies qualify you as part of this wondrous fellowship of shared Otherness.
No matter where you are in your journey, no matter your current spiritual address, you are not alone. Ultimately, Life on the Spectrum points us to the only One who truly gets us; the One who has and keeps us in the palm of His mighty hand. Whether we acknowledge Him or not, the Lord is our Master 1:1 shadow aide. He never leaves or forsakes us. Our counselor, protector and provider, the Lord is ever present help in times of trouble. As we strive to maximize our child’s potential, our Heavenly Father is striving to maximize ours.
Our prayer is that you would find hope, help and company for the journey. What the enemy intended for harm, God can redeem and repurpose into a blessing. Let us marvel at the spectrum of blessings that Life on the Spectrumcan bring.
Encased in His grace,
Diane Dokko Kim
Jeremy’s undone mum, author of Unbroken Faith: Spiritual Recovery for the Special Needs Parent