Sunday, June 26, 2016

Acceptance vs. Assurance

acceptance––willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation

assurance––a positive declaration intended to give confidence; a promise

This week I read an upbeat article in a popular magazine about a family raising a daughter with autism that offered good insights into life with autism. I found myself agreeing with most of what the parents were quoted as saying until the last paragraph. The author states that the parents “grow weary of what they believe are common misconceptions surrounding autism, including the role of vaccines, which they don’t believe are the culprit.” If, indeed, the parents truly feel this way, they seem to be accepting a popular stance the media presents on a controversial issue. However, as parents we must not grow weary and must continue to seek all potential causes of autism if we have any hope of helping our kids get better.

Similarly, I have read essays written by adults who say they have autism and by parents of children with autism asserting that trying to cure children of autism is wrong and that parents should accept their children as they are. Some will support this belief by stating, “This is how God made them,” suggesting that trying to help the children with autism is going against God’s will. Isn’t the point of life trying to become the best people we can be? I believe that our role as parents is to help our children develop their potential so that they can live a fulfilled life, instead of tolerating a life that is more difficult than it needs to be.

Perhaps some parents have not endured the struggles we have gone through with autism and simply don’t know why acceptance is not acceptable. Having dealt with a child whose extreme anxiety––which often accompanies autism––led him to become a danger to himself and others with his aggressive panic attacks, we know that parents must constantly seek answers to the cause of autism and search for the best treatment methods. In our situation we needed to make major changes because of Alex’s fluctuating hormone levels in his teens, bouts of candida yeast overgrowth in his digestive system that agitated him, and a need to switch SSRI medications to address his OCD when Prozac stopped working for him. Instead of just believing that God made Alex this way and tolerating a terrible situation, we believed that God would help us weather the storms and show us what we needed to do to help Alex overcome these obstacles. We chose assurance­––God’s promise of faithfulness––over acceptance, and God fulfilled his promise by leading us to the professionals who knew how to help us make Alex better.

This week we took Alex to two community events in our local downtown park: a movie and a concert, both of which he thoroughly enjoyed. A few years ago, we would have never dreamed that he could have sat happily and calmly in the midst of crowds and activity for two hours. Even though we believed he would get better through therapy and treatment, his progress has surpassed our expectations and allowed God to show his goodness to us. In addition, we have begun to wean him off one of his medications for anxiety under the direction of his psychiatric nurse practitioner because he is doing so well. While we had some concerns about how he would react to this change, thankfully, he has adapted amazingly well, showing no negative side effects to the lower doses of this medication.

As we listened to the music at the concert in the park, an image from the lyrics to one of the songs resonated with me. Although I can’t remember the exact words, the gist was that we are all waiting to be diamonds. Curious about how diamonds are actually made, I found an article online at Live Science that summarized the process: “bury carbon dioxide 100 miles into Earth, heat to 2200 degrees Fahrenheit, squeeze under pressure of 725,000 pounds per square inch, and quickly rush toward Earth’s surface to cool.” Essentially, what’s needed to create something beautiful and strong is to take something common and ordinary and subject it to extreme heat and pressure. Certainly, autism has created figurative heat and pressure that have tested us and shaped Alex, who is well on his way to becoming a diamond. As we watch him try to convey an idea through words despite his difficulties in generating speech or to complete a simple task with hands that have not yet mastered fine motor skills, we are amazed at the patience and tenacity he has developed over the years. He never gives up, knowing he will eventually complete what he has started, reminding and encouraging us to never give up, knowing with complete assurance that God will complete what He has started through His good works in Alex.

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1

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