Seven years ago today, I took Samuel to the Kansas City Regional Center to meet with a psychologist for autism testing “just to rule it out.” Instead, we left with an official diagnosis of moderate/severe classic autism. He was constantly scripting with no meaningful language, playing “inappropriately” with toys (focused on spinning wheels instead of driving, or lining up toys), and had severe meltdowns that involved banging his head repeatedly.
Today, we spent the day at grandparents’ house for our Maryland family Christmas. We walked in the house to a beautiful array of gifts spread under the tree, and on the fireplace hearth. Sam greeted his grandparents, uncle and girlfriend, then flitted around the tree excitedly flapping his hands. He doesn’t typically flap his hands unless he is REALLY excited. He waited patiently (at least, as patiently as he could) before getting to open presents. He smiled and said “thank you” for his gifts. He conversed with his brothers. He played appropriately with his new Nerf rifle and Star Wars inquisitor light saber. He pretend-played. He ate dinner with us without having a meltdown. He played outside with his brother. He asked for food when he was hungry. He asked to watch a movie, and then watched it with the family together.
Seven years ago, our Christmas looked very different than today’s. A lot has changed over the years, most of it for the better. This Christmas, we are so grateful for what the Lord has done in his life. We are so very thankful for the privilege of therapy to help him achieve language, help to address his behavior, the ability to be sociable and enjoy the company of others, and so much more. But more than anything, we praise God especially for Sam’s salvation this past year. God is truly the God of the impossible – what seems impossible to us, anyway.
This Christmas, when your child is stimming, remember the baby that was born in a stable. When your daughter has to use an ipad to communicate, remember the Savior that became like us so that He might be our perfect High Priest. When your son lines up his new toys, remember the Lord Jesus who entered into the world He made – a world lined with suffering – so that He could redeem our pain through His own suffering on our behalf. When the challenges of your child’s special-needs drowns the joy of Christmas morning, remember the Christ who is risen, and is making all things new and will one day erase every tear from your eyes. When you have to deal with the food issues, the head-banging, the meltdowns, the spinning, the flapping, the rocking, the isolation of autism and the questions from family or friends… remember – and see – the beauty of the child God created just the way they are. Remember that Christmas doesn’t have to be “perfect” to be beautiful. Christmas is still beautiful because Jesus has come! And Jesus is perfect.
So whether or not the decorations are all out, the tree is up, the stockings are hung, cookies are filling tins, or your child responds “appropriately”, remember that Jesus has come bringing joy to the world. And have yourself a merry little Christmas.