We’re honored Jeff Davidson graciously agreed to take over the blog for Autism Awareness Day 2015. Jeff is an accomplished pastor, disability ministry leader…and the father of a 15 year old son with autism. Here’s Jeff…
I had no plan. No plan at all.
I had always prided myself on the belief that given time, I could solve any problem, fix any circumstance, and overcome any obstacle.
Now I had no idea what to do.
I couldn’t even bring myself to say the word out loud. If I didn’t say it out loud, perhaps over time it would go away.
As long as I didn’t say the word “autism,” then my son really didn’t have it.
I nuanced it for years.
“He’ll outgrow it. He’s just a little delayed.”
“He’s on the spectrum, but he’s not autistic.”
“He has sensory processing issues, but he’s not autistic.”
I was an ostrich-dad, sticking my head in the sand to avoid reality, and to avoid noticing the obvious.
Now after all these years I realize I was a typical dad, stuck in denial and emotionally paralyzed by my fear and lack of understanding and acceptance.
I wasn’t ready for this. Who was ever ready for this?
My world had been turned upside down, and I hated living in the upside-down world.
We knew so little about autism 15 years ago. We didn’t know that by this time, 1 in 68 children would be diagnosed on the autism spectrum, according to the CDC. We didn’t know it would affect 1 in 42 boys by this time.
We didn’t anticipate that, if the current growth rate continues unabated, 1 in every 2 boys could be affected by 2025.
All that mattered to me was that I had one son, and he had autism.
So I made a decision. A choice. The only choice that any of us can make.
I chose to love my son unconditionally just the way he was…autistic.
I chose to embrace his differences, accept his challenges, and love him for who he was…my son.
I chose to go into his world and engage with him without reservation and qualification.
I don’t fully understand his world, but I’m confident that he doesn’t understand mine either
Sometimes he has this look on his face like he sees things that I don’t see.
He tilts his head to the side and grins softly, as if heaven is playing a song just for him. He twirls his fingers to the music.
Early in the morning I can hear him over the monitor in his room making sounds and expressions none of us can understand. I think he is talking to God in a language only the two of them can understand.
Sometimes I think Jon Alex sees angels. Sometimes I think he hears the music coming from heaven’s chorus. Sometimes I think he talks to God…and God talks back to him.
Oftentimes we describe our children with autism as “living in their own world.”
My son’s senses are overly acute in many instances to touch, sound, sights, smells and the tactile evidence of the world around him.
Maybe he really isn’t living “in his own world.” Maybe he is living in the world as it was originally created.
My son Jon Alex lives in a world of unconditional love and acceptance. In his world grace abounds, loves triumphs over all, and contentment can often be found with the simplest of things.
His world is one of purity, simplicity, innocence, and goodness.
I’m jealous of his world. His world isn’t polluted by envy, jealousy, pride and hatred. His world is enticing, even beckoning.
His world puts an equal value on all people, seeing them through the eyes of significance, kindness, and human dignity.
Have you ever been mesmerized by a child with autism and wondered what they were thinking, or what was going on in their mind?
Have you ever looked at that child and wondered if they were thinking the same thing about you?
When you have been puzzled by their behavior or baffled by their routine, have you ever wondered if they feel the same way about your behavior or routines?
When you have struggled with their personality traits that can seem peculiar, have you ever wondered if they feel the same way about some of your personality traits that seem so peculiar to them?
Maybe we are the ones living in “another world.”
I envy his world sometimes.
I know I have learned far more from my son, than he has ever learned from me. I realize now that he is nothing like me, and yet he is everything I want to be.
Autism has robbed me of so many things.
I’ve been robbed from my own pride, selfishness, and greed.
I’ve been robbed from my tendency to put my work above my family.
I’ve been robbed from living for myself instead of in service to others.
I’ve been robbed of only caring about those who are just like me.
I’ve been robbed robbed me of believing there are some struggles too big for me.
I’ve been robbed me of never finding out what God’s plan and purpose is for my life.
It’s been 15 years and my world is still turned upside down by autism.
But maybe that’s not so bad. Maybe my world needed turning upside down.
Jeff Davidson is an author and pastor who enjoys speaking at churches, conferences, events and to groups, ministering to special needs families and individuals. Jeff and his wife Becky started Rising Above Ministries when they realized the incredible gift and blessing their own son with special needs (Jon Alex) was to them. Jeff’s book, No More Peanut Butter Sandwiches, is available through Crosslink Publishing, Barnes and Noble and Amazon.