Potential

When our oldest daughter was born, we looked forward to what she would become. She had so much potential.

Teacher. Scientist. Fire Fighter. Business woman. Doctor. Lawyer. Engineer. Mechanic. Nurse. Caregiver. Hero. Writer. Leader.

We were filled with dreams, wishes, and hopes for her. But then we began to notice differences in her development. She didn’t speak, walk, move, or connect as well as the other children in our lives – her siblings, cousins, classmates. We listened in secret pain as our friends and siblings crowed about the achievements of their little Einsteins and future athletes. She walked late, talked late, and reacted in strange ways to the events around her.

Because of our concern, we had her evaluated multiple times and we finally received the diagnosis of autism, learning disabilities, and brain injury at birth.

In the necessarily clear-eyed and realistic assessment of her needs, we had to focus on her challenges; the features that differentiated her from normal kids. Knowledge, even if painful, was required in order to provide what she needed. We traveled the road less traveled of speech and occupational therapy, IEP meetings, more evaluations, and support groups.

In the process, it was easy to lose sight of her potential.

It was easy to forget that she was created in the image of God for a purpose.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10, NIV

She was created, just as we are, to do the good works which God prepared in advance for her to do. So our daughter went on a spring break mission trip and painted windows at a camp in Tennessee with the high school youth group. After college she volunteered at a homeless shelter in the accounting department for over a year. She is kind and considers the needs of others.

Not only has she performed good works herself; but good works have also been generated in those around her. Kindness has been extended. Help has been offered and accepted. Many good works were done behalf of our family, which God prepared in advance for others to perform.

She is God’s handiwork…the art of creation poured has been poured out in her life.

This is true of all children. They also have also been created in the image of God to do good works as they blossom forth into the world.

Ten Things I wish Were True

1) Every child with a disability who is entitled by law to receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), receives one. This was not true when I was raising my kids. I heard stories at conferences, at advisory committees, legislative comment sessions, and on the internet. In this era of public school destruction, I fear the situation is even worse. Federal Law mandates FAPE, but with the reduction in funding and the systematic destruction of our public schools due to corporate interference, I’m afraid FAPE is much more likely to be denied.

2) “Your kids will always have a job because of their disability.” The person who said this to me felt that her kids (brilliant) were at a disadvantage because they didn’t have special job protection under the law (discrimination protected status supposedly given to special classes of individuals due to race, disability, and sex). The unemployment rate of people with autism is above 50%. My oldest daughter diligently searched for full time employment for four years after graduation from college.

3) I wish the liquid asset limit for SSI was raised. The amount for an individual is still at $2,000 and for a couple it is $3,000. This is not enough money to save to move to an apartment, or for emergencies that may come up, such as a major car or home repair.

4) Every parent of a child with disabilities had a mentor, a coach, a village of helpers.

5) There was a cure for children with autism who have major impairments.

6) Employers would give high functioning adults a chance. And if the first or second person doesn’t work out, keep giving a chance to someone else until they find the one who fits. I know this is asking a lot.

7) Those who look down on our parenting skills would spend a day in an autism parenting immersion experience.

8) Immunizations really did cause autism. Then autism could be eradicated within a generation. Instead there are worse things which can be attributed to a lack of vaccines, such as infant death by whooping cough, death by lockjaw, heart disease caused by measles (my mother), etc. The causes of autism appear to be numerous.

9) Every person with autism would have a circle of friends. In high school.

10) Every family affected by autism would have a fabulous vacation at some point in the journey.

How about you? What would be on your wish list?