Dealing with Alex’s autism has been a true test of our faith. Watching Joel Osteen’s televised weekly sermons from Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, has helped strengthen my faith tremendously, and reading all of his inspirational books has offered encouragement and hope I have needed. Currently, I’m reading Joel Osteen’s newest book, Every Day a Friday: How To Be Happier 7 Days a Week, and finding that his words help me put things into proper perspective. As a matter of fact, the chapter I most recently read, entitled “The Right Perspective,” focuses on the idea of being thankful, no matter what the circumstances, thus taking lemons and making lemonade. He suggests that people “look at what’s right, not what’s wrong” because “seeds of discouragement cannot take root in a grateful heart.” To develop this gratitude, he recommends making a list of all the things that are right in life and thanking God for what He has given. With that in mind, I began thinking about all the things that are actually good about having a teenage son with autism. Even though I envy parents of typical children, I realize that they face problems we don’t, and I’m thankful that we don’t have to deal with certain issues because Alex has autism.
For example, I’m thankful that we don ‘t have to worry that Alex will engage in underage drinking because he doesn’t hang out with peers who might tempt him, as many young men his age must face. We’ve also been spared the various dramas of the teen dating world, which Alex has no interest in pursuing. I’m also grateful that his motor skill issues have prevented him from getting a driver’s license. We don’t have to worry that he’s out driving one of our cars, and we save a fortune in not having to provide auto insurance for a teen male. Another benefit we enjoy is that Alex has no interest in wearing more expensive clothing brands that carry status among young people, such as Aeropostale or Abercrombie and Fitch. For one thing, he doesn’t care about impressing others, and he also doesn’t like clothes with words or logos. He’s content to wear clothes I find on sale at Target, Penney’s and Kohl’s, so long as they’re soft and logo-free. One benefit of his sound sensitivity is that Alex never listens to his music at an annoying volume, as I did as a teenager, driving my parents crazy. Moreover, his taste in music is quite similar to ours, so we wouldn’t mind even if he did play his music loudly. Because he doesn’t care what other people think about him, he never minds being seen in public with us, unlike many teens who would be mortified to be seen somewhere with their parents. While many parents have to nag their teenagers to do their homework, we’ve been blessed that Alex actually enjoys doing schoolwork and includes reading as one of his favorite pastimes. We’re also fortunate that once he got past his early teen rebellious behavior of using profanities to get reactions, he outgrew this stage and rarely ever uses curse words. Every night when Alex goes to bed, we realize how lucky we are that he willingly and happily goes to his bedroom at 10:00 and falls asleep soon after that, instead of staying up all hours, as many kids his age do. What I count among our greatest blessings, however, is that Alex holds an unwavering faith, trusting in God at all times.
As I count my blessings, I realize that I have so many reasons to be happy. Besides Alex and his unique take on life, I’m fortunate to have the unconditional love of my husband and parents, the support and loyalty of my friends, good health, secure finances, a job I enjoy, and the faith in God that sustains us. I have often thought that without autism, my life would essentially be perfect. However, I’m realizing that autism has taught me lessons that I would have missed without it, such as finding joy in spite of obstacles. As I continue to work on my patience while I wait, I know that until Alex overcomes autism, we can always find some reason to be grateful.
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18