Recently on Twitter, a mother we'll call Harriet posted; “Why do we have a vaccine for Covid but NOTHING for autism?!? My 15 year old daughter can’t even dress herself or put on deodorant alone. Get your a**es into gear & find a cure NOW! This is not a personality type. It’s a disability. #AutismAcceptanceMonth”
This tweet understandably caused an uproar within the autism community. Not just parents who have kids with autism, but thousands of adults who have autism commented.
April is Autism Awareness month but Harriet used the hashtag “Autism Acceptance Month” in a tweet that was anything but accepting of the plight of her daughter. But I see this tweet differently. This tweet, masking as an offensive front towards what she thinks is going on with her daughter, is a desperate cry for help. It echoed in my brain as I read it again and again. And it doesn’t just apply to autism. Every special needs parent of any type, has probably thought at least once, “Just give them something to fix it so my child can be normal!”, even if it was only in the deepest part of their secret heart.
Whoever came up with the phrase “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” needs a swift kick in the rear. Where on earth is that in the Bible? God does give us more than we can handle. Yes. You heard me right. All you have to do is read the Bible or any life of a saint to see it. Why does He do this? To teach us humility and to ask for help. We are not called to a life trapped by what we feel is “obligation.” We are not meant to be alone in this. We are meant to be helped. We NEED help!
Just as the coin buried in the ground yielded no profit, the special needs parent who does not ask for help is fruitless. I sacrifice my sanity, my reason, what’s best for my child, and any knowledge out there to help us, all for pride.
Here’s the bottom line- special needs in a person are not a disease. It’s not a pariah. It’s not an illness! It’s not something that can just go away with a pill or shot. Instead, special needs in a person are a part of who they are. It’s an opportunity for growth for so many and in so many virtues. Humility, patience, kindness, empathy, tolerance- just to name a few. Special needs stretch us past “what we can handle” and force us to come out of hiding so that the community we all need is built around us. It opens our eyes and hearts to different. And different can be beautiful if we let it.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, I invite you to reach out. Even if it’s just to your neighbor across the street. Give them your phone number- have coffee once a week. When we first moved to Allen,TX, I did this with my neighbors. I literally handed out calling cards with all of our names, my phone number, and our address like it was 1886. I still do this when my kids meet a new friend. It was the best decision I ever made. All my neighbors know us. They all understand our son has autism and have been so understanding and helpful. And guess what? One of our neighbors even has a daughter with autism that we help, swap advice, and commiserate with regularly. We would have never known that if we had not reached out. The more I isolate myself as a special needs parent, the more my and my child’s health is sacrificed mentally and physically.
We need each other.
A native of Cajun, South Louisiana, Rachel is a wife & stay-at-home autism mom with 4 kiddos living life enthusiastically in Allen, TX.