“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11
Occasionally, I’ll allow myself to look back at the life I had before autism – before I knew anything about developmental delays, or special diets or IEPs – when I juggled playdates and mornings at the park instead of therapy and doctor visits. I have to admit, it is a pretty breathtaking view.
God had other plans.
I had to shred my life’s blueprints and start from scratch – not willingly, I might add. God had to pry those suckers from my desperately clenched fists. I clung to them as if my very survival depended on it, but ultimately, God won the wrestling match. Shocker.
So there I was, sitting among the tattered ruins that were once my best laid plans, wondering where I go from here.
You may have read about how Spectrum of Blessings began (if you don’t know the story, you can read it here), but the decision to write about my experiences as a spectrum parent ended up being one of the most significant choices I’ve ever made.
Having a special needs child can be very isolating. Luke and I were rarely available for outings with other mothers and their children on account of his rigorous therapy schedule, and eventually, people stopped asking. When I did get together with other mothers, I frequently found it difficult to relate to them. They would share how stressed they were about finishing the laundry, or keeping the house tidy, or preparing meals. They would be concerned about how their four-year-old was so strong-willed or how their teenager was developing a rebellious attitude. At the risk of sounding insensitive, these problems – the problems that reduced them to tears – all seemed kind of precious to me.
I always wanted to say, “Will not finishing the chores really matter in ten years, or even in a week?” and let’s face it, when you have a child who can’t speak to you at all, having a teenager that mouths off sounds like something of a blessing. I also didn’t feel free to express my own struggles, because I knew anything I contributed would instantly sober the mood. It’s not fun to be a Debbie Downer.
However, through my blog, I began to connect with other special needs parents. It was revelatory. I realized how much we needed each other, and new blueprints for the life that God planned for me began to emerge. God was uniquely preparing me to meet a need in His body – a ministry for special needs families.
Some of my short-term goals for Spectrum of Blessings include:
1) A faith-based, inter-church support group for special needs mothers where everyone can freely share, and where we can encourage each other and pray for our children. I am already meeting with several special needs mothers, but we do need to get organized.
2) The translation of Spectrum of Blessings into a Spanish language site called “Espectro de Bendiciones.” My good friend, Maria, has already volunteered to assist me in this venture and to be the administrator of the sister-site.
3) The establishment of a non-profit organization that would provide medical grants to parents whose insurance does not cover necessary services for their child.
My long-term goals are:
1) Procuring a home that can be used as a living quarters for adult children with special needs, whose parents are either no longer living or too weak to care for them. The home would be staffed with volunteers who provide oversight, and rides to church functions so that they continue to be loved and cared for the rest of their lives.
2) I also entertain the idea that God may call my husband and I to adopt a spectrum child someday. I’ve always had a heart for adoption, and the thought of walking this road all over again doesn’t frighten me the way it once did. I think it would be an amazing twist to my story if, at some point, I chose for myself to live the life that God had thrust upon me years earlier.
I have to admit, it’s a pretty breathtaking view.