(Brett, Mike, and Levi. Three of my sons while on vacation in Lake Arrowhead this summer.)
I have a son with autism. He is kind of my homing pigeon from the Lord. Just when my thoughts are bouncing off the walls and my life is spinning, Levi will bring up the blue shark that is broken at Chuck E Cheese. It is amazing the things that affect his life with such intensity. We visited Chuck E Cheese in San Antonio, TX a month ago, but everyday he asks me, "please go fix the blue shark." We are moving to Northern California soon and I asked my husband if we could please go through San Antonio and fix that blue shark, so Levi can move on in his thought life.
Levi tends to stay much focused until he completes his mission, clearly a strength I desire. In fact, daily he reminds me, "Mommy, I am on a mission for God (no, he did not acquire the line from the Blues Brothers movie)!"
I was in the middle of taking "programming" in college via distance learning when Levi was tiny, before officially diagnosed. I knew he had autism about 18 months before the doctors, because he was my fifth nursing child, but he could not connect to me by six months of age. I could not learn programming, because his long screaming bouts and non-stop jumping constantly frazzled my nerves.
At first, there were times I resented that Levi’s autism single-handedly destroyed my college aspirations. All the work I did to get to that place in programming became worthless. All my professors told me to give up completing my degree unless I was willing to put Levi in a daycare so I could focus. I weighed my options in prayer. Do I choose my aspirations or the gift the Lord entrusted to me? God made it clear where His heart was in this decision. Where was mine?
Levi was not verbal. He threw all the tantrums and screaming fits common to autism. He did not want me to touch him to comfort him. At six months, I began to force him to sleep with his tummy skin to my tummy skin. He hated it and thrashed about trying to escape, but I would lie awake for hours every night holding him firmly there until he slept. This went on for months and I was fatigued.
Levi would melt down many times daily when he was little. You talk about humbling. I thought I had parenting down to a fine skill, but nothing would work at that phase, not even consistent discipline, in fact, it only intensified the meltdowns.
I used to judge the "other people" in the store who had a child acting up, never realizing there might be an underlying issue besides bad parenting. Maybe that child has autism and just has an aversion to shopping that is more than a "male gene aversion to shopping." Maybe it truly turns their little world upside down. I am certain there have been times the neighbors contemplated if I was abusing my children as Levi screamed for hours.
As a family, we have all immersed our lives into Levi. He can now control most of his meltdowns. They are rare. We also train ourselves to know the signals of when Levi can take no more. Levi now likes cuddling with each of us. Now when he is injured, he comes for empathy from us. Even more amazing is the fact that Levi can show concern and empathy if we get hurt. Levi has trained the other side of his brain to develop a language center and he has much to say.
Yesterday, Levi called me "Sweetheart!" I am melting. He meant it and I know I am not truly worthy of such a sweet title, because I am the perpetual brat of our household, always pulling something rascally to get a laugh.
Levi expresses affection in precious ways. Yes, there are times he ventures into his own world, as he experiences life through different perceptions and priorities. Even in this, I know there is a purpose. I know God will use Levi’s different perceptions to serve His glory in a unique way that I could never touch. Levi is on a mission for God. It seems apparent to me; the first leg of that mission is to transform his mommy for God’s glory!
(By the way, Levi’s autism also showed me the purpose I have to serve for God, and as it turns out, it is not programming computers! Thank you Lord for directing my paths to serve Your glory.)