Recently I was at the zoo with my 8 year old son Josiah. I wanted to show him all the animals we normally marvel at in society. I took him to see the elephants, apes, giraffes, lions, tigers, bears and all the other big fascinating animals – in which he showed little interest. However, when we were walking between exhibits, I felt him clinch my hand in a way that sent a chill down my back. Josiah’s eyes, which often wander, were locked in on a subject.
Sitting a couple of yards away from us on the grass was a squirrel. As I saw the focused look in Josiah’s eyes, almost as if he were viewing it with Superman’s x-ray vision, I looked at the squirrel more intensely myself. It was then that I became aware that Josiah was getting my attention to marvel at an animal that most people who have gone to the zoo dozens of times, including myself, have never seen before in life. Josiah had noticed a squirrel…that interestingly enough was black.
The Most Special Need
Of all the animals at the zoo, something more unique than any other animal caught Josiah’s eye. One that I would’ve never noticed…a beautiful black squirrel. Even though he’s non-verbal, Josiah was able to identify and communicate that something was odd and out of the ordinary – because it was truly special.
That beautiful black squirrel in so many ways represents Josiah, who due to his autism which makes him different, lives in a world where he’s constantly overlooked – with many failing to identify what makes him beautiful, unique and truly special.
When you get the diagnosis that your child has autism, I’m not sure which part hurts more. The idea of the future you had planned for your child, or wondering if the world is going to accept your child for who they are and not the diagnosis. The world can be harsh, judgmental and outright mean – looking at your child as if they have an uncurable plague. But nothing could be further from the truth. They’re actually more like a gift from another world, with supernatural powers and perspective on what life is truly about. This revelation makes your loved one more than just a special needs child – they’re simply special and incredibly capable of providing you with the most special need of all…love.
The Kiss Of Life
Josiah and I play a game every morning called “I’m Going To Steal A Kiss!” I come into his room and wake him up by saying “I’m Going To Steal A Kiss” as he responds, “No No No!” He playfully thinks he’s fighting my kisses off, although he’ll never ever win. Last week while helping my youngest son practice before his soccer game – Josiah came to me with the biggest smile and grin one could ever see. He made purposeful eye contact with me, gave me a kiss, and then walked off like nothing happened. He stole a kiss and my heart in the same moment.
That ended my day on such a high, and any given day with Josiah can be a supernatural high. Doctors and specialists said he would probably never be able to communicate or purposefully do the things we normally do – such as walk, play with others and make eye contact – let alone give his mother a kiss. But Josiah has defeated the odds time and time again.
The Courage To Fight: No Tears
Up until Josiah was 3 years old, we were in and out of the hospital. The first 18 months were the worst, as we spent 2-3 days a week at the hospital overnight testing for feeding and developmental issues. The testing and MRIs were so intense, I wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemy. But you know what? Josiah never cried once. You never want to cause your child pain, but in his strength it helped me to be strong. He always gave me a vibe like “Mom I got this.” So eventually I had to say if he can endure without crying, why can’t I?
Josiah is the most courageous warrior and compassionate steward of love. His hugs are packed with everlasting life. When he smiles he makes you forget about all your problems. When he laughs you laugh because the joy he gives is contagious. That’s power! As a matter of fact – that’s his superpower, and he’s without a doubt my super hero.
During Autism Awareness month we salute all the superheroes across the spectrum. Everyday in their own special super power ways – they communicate to us “everything is ok, and they’re going to be just fine.” In many ways they’re here to take care of us – because they’re our superheroes with the super magical powers to appreciate all there is to truly love about life.