The questions began slowly, over a period of weeks and months.
“Why doesn’t he look when I call his name?”
“Shouldn’t he have more words by now?”
“Do you notice he hardly ever looks me in the eye?”
But it was easy for me to explain things away, both to myself and others.
“It’s just his personality. He gets absorbed in his own little world.”
“His big brothers do all the talking, so he doesn’t feel the need to try.”
“I get a lot of eye contact, maybe you just need to spend more time one-on-one with him.”
But questions led to doubts, and doubts led to me sitting in a doctor’s office being referred to a pediatrician because he suspected my son had autism. And while I could hold onto hope of a mistake when I talked to the doctor — who was quick to state that he was not an expert — that hope quickly disintegrated as the pediatrician added her opinion that yes, he most likely had autism, and told us it was time for a formal diagnosis with a psychologist.
That moment turned our world on its head. My son. My perfect little boy who came into the world strong and HUNGRY, and smiled his way through the next year of his life. Who wasn’t bothered by doctor’s exams, sun in his eyes, or the sound of the blender, like my other babies. The sweet thing that smiled through an infant chest x-ray, to the utter shock of the technician (just pause and google search what that looks like, I’ll wait) and wasn’t even cranky when he had pneumonia. He was a slice of joy and had developed perfectly for the first 18 months of his life. Every milestone on time or early. Rolling at 4 months, walking at 11 months, eating and growing like a champ. Except the speech. The speech that just didn’t come and had us questioning each other. So there we were, a few months before his second birthday staring the word autism in the face.
I knew immediately that I was broken. I wept in front of people I hardly knew. I prayed and begged and cried over my son’s bed at night. Why, why, why? He was born perfect. So how? Give me a reason! To my great shame, I actually envied people who had children with Down Syndrome, as they could point to an extra chromosome and say “there it is! That’s why.” But there are no answers like that for autism – so many theories, but nothing proven. It so often came back to “was this my fault? Was it something I did or didn’t do that triggered this?” And that’s where my son’s autism ran smack into the wall of my faith and sent me reeling.
You see, I believe in God. And I believe in the Bible. It is at the core of everything I believe about my life and this world. When the Bible says that God only gives good gifts (Matthew 7:9-11) I believe that to be true. When it says that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28) I believe that to be true. I believe that nothing is outside of His reach. So my son having autism did not catch God off guard. He was not surprised by this. It was not beyond His power to change it. For my son to have autism, God must have allowed it. Regardless of anything I did or didn’t do, God knew and God allowed it.
I knew, deep in my soul, that this was a true moment of faith. Did I really and truly believe what I said I believed? My son’s autism diagnosis scraped away everything on the surface of my life – it dug directly down to the foundation and forced me to discover if I had built my life on sand or solid rock. To my great relief, out of the deepest parts of my soul, I knew.
This world is not my home.
I have a good, good Father who only gives good gifts.
And even though I couldn’t yet see the outcome, I knew that somehow, this was for my son’s good, God’s glory, and our refinement.