Read below for a guest post from Melody Grewal.
My twelve year-old son has non-verbal autism. He is also tall and big for his age. I’ve never known a time when doing anything in public with him wasn’t hard. Even when he was a portable baby, his senses easily overloaded, and we often had to make hasty exits to avoid crying meltdowns.
Now when Isaiah’s senses get overloaded, he may suddenly scream, stomp his foot hard, or flail his hands, making loud “angry noises.” When a 150-pound, 5-foot 6-inch boy with a man-sized voice does any of those things in public, people look. Sometimes people will do more than look. Many times in public, we have had what I now fondly call “negative encounters with strangers.” Once a mother on a bus pointed out his noises to her three daughters, copied them, and then laughed together with them when they started copying them too. Another time some boys in a pool swam around copying his “happy hands” while laughing loudly at him.
But last month, as I was thinking up prayer requests for our church prayer meeting about our upcoming vacation, I thought, why not pray, “Lord, please protect us from negative encounters with strangers.”
And, He did! Since we’re out in public so much during a vacation, there is usually an average of one negative encounter every three days. Anything ranging from people laughing, or pointing, or–my favourite–someone walking up and saying something ignorant right to our faces.
On the last day, as we were coming out of the Beauty and the Beast Show (yes, we went to Disney World!), a woman approached me and said, “Excuse me, but I saw your son’s shirt during the show and I wanted to tell you it was so wonderful to see him enjoying the show so much and … he is glowing! Just glowing!” She went on: “I have a grandson with autism and my daughter is afraid to bring him out because of his meltdowns, but I was so happy to see your son out and enjoying things … maybe one day my grandson can too.”
A couple other times, strangers walked by us and said, “Love the shirt!” Someone else said, “Is that your son? You two are so good with him. I’m a middle school principal, and I know how hard autism can be in public.”
So all this time, the answer wasn’t to use my debate skills honed in business school to win verbal sparring matches with bullies? The answer was to ask God for help?! Oh.
Twelve years of trying to fix the problem by myself when I should have just asked Him for help.
“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Exodus 14:4
Thank you, God, for preparing the lessons I needed to learn when I didn’t even know I didn’t know.
This original version of this post was first published on Melody’s blog.
Melody Tien Grewal is a wife, mother, and Chartered Professional Accountant. She lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband and son, who has autism. God has made her life full – at home, at church, and in her accounting practice – and she is grateful for it. Visit her blog to read more.