I do not know how in the world we would have made it through the last year and a half without all the encouragement we have received; some from the unlikeliest and unexpected places. Almost immediately upon getting the autism diagnosis on Andrew, I decided to send out a mass email to our church family and others letting them know what we were facing, asking for their prayers, support, and understanding. There are families who choose not to "broadcast" their news and I respect them for it. Every family is different. Many choose to do so out of concern that their child will be branded with the autism label for life; I struggled with this myself. In the end, it made more sense for us (and I knew would help Andrew more) for me to clue everyone in and seek their support. I couldn't anymore pretend that his autism was not a part of who he was than a child who battles cancer could ignore his disease. The two may be completely different in every way, but both have to deal with life-altering events. I'm pretty independent and tend to handle things on my own, but not this! I felt completely overwhelmed. The blessings from telling everyone about it have been astounding....and they're still coming! Not surprisingly we received tons of email replies and I promptly placed them in a special folder--The Barnabas File. Each one was different-some were humorous, some gave personal experiences of people they knew with the disorder, while others felt just like a big ole cyber hug!
One "unexpected" blessing happened one Sunday morning before worship. A friend from out of town was visiting that day, and had heard about Andrew. Carla was waiting for me at my pew and gave me a book, "In The Eye of The Hurricane-Finding Peace Within the Storm of Autism" (Juli C. Liske), written by a mother with no formal training or financial resources, who created a plan of therapy for her severely autistic son and amazed medical professionals in bringing her son back. She had gone to church with this family and had taught the little boy in Bible class as well. I just melted in tears. I so needed that book and devoured it immediately! It was a real turning point of hope for me. As an aside, Mrs. Liske founded and runs The Brown Center for Autism in middle Tennessee. Read about her story and this amazing center here. Thank you, Carla, you were truly a blessing to me that day!
I could not have foreseen how important and uplifting finding Mitchell's Place would be for ME. I have felt such camaraderie and sense of belonging in getting to know other Special Moms who walk the same path. We share plenty of laughs, helpful hints, frustrations, and victories. :) I'm so encouraged by the mother whose husband is deployed for months at a time while she takes care of getting her child to therapy each day and handles the medical issues of another child; and the mom who drives a total of four hours daily between home, MP, and work; and another mom who struggles hours every day on data collection and therapies trying to encourage her son to eat. These women ROCK and are such an inspiration! I love it when another parent says something to me like, "hey, I was observing today and I noticed how well Andrew is doing in circle time...he's come such a long way!" In a way, all these kids are ours; we see their progress and get excited when they accomplish even a small milestone.
My point to all this...there are so many ways to be an encouragement to others. A kind word, an email, a spontaneous message on Facebook, letting someone know you said a prayer for them, a hug...it doesn't have to be a big gesture to make a big difference in someone's day! Be a blessing!