God made many beautiful, precious things. He made green, green grass and luminous butterflies and very strong trees.
He made a bright blue sky warmed by a round sun, and a moon for the darkest nights.
He also made autism.
He made a child with a memory for hundreds of dates and facts, a child whose body dances and whirls, while his fingers twitch and move—who is afraid of the color orange and loves the way soda feels on his tongue.
A child who can take your very breath away, if you give him the chance.
The Lord didn’t stop there.
He made a mother.
He made a woman who will stay up into the small mornings hours and rocks a restless infant and sang lullabies until her voice grows hoarse.
After the singing and the sleepless nights, she schedules speech therapy and researches medication and every single minute of every single day, tries her hardest to see the child beneath the bell curve.
Next, He made a man.
He made a man who is strong, and yet tender. He sees potential where others see none, and he isn’t afraid to nudge this child further into the world than anyone thought possible.
C’mon, buddy, help me drive the tractor.
He called this man father.
After the mother and the father, he decided this boy needed a companion. A kind of friend, if you will.
A friend, but also not a friend—in fact, someone better than a friend.
So, he made a brother.
And this brother, well, he is important. He does good things.
He listens when no one else listens, and he agrees to go to the movie theater with the smallest screen, and night after night he sits at the dinner table and nods his head, yes, the new Winter Spiced Cranberry Sprite is pretty good but not great.
One day, the brother sailed along a river in a tube beside this boy, all laughter and lightness and summer sky. And when the river floor dropped out beneath them, it is the brother who saved the boy—who fit hands beneath arms and yanked him from the water’s cruel swell.
Oh my God get them I can’t get them they are so far away we can’t get to them in time Joey is pulling them out he is look he is pulling them all out.
Then, a sister.
See, God is very, very smart. He knows it is the quiet girl with the big heart and the very knack for reading this boy’s spirit who will ultimately change the world.
You see, she is the proverbial canary in the mine—able to decode the air quality of her mysterious brother, no matter the cost to herself.
Jack, shhhh. It’s okay, it will be okay.
Next, the good Lord decided this spectrum child needed a person of whimsy. He needed a person who would swing him high upon his shoulders and teach him to lick an ice cream cone while it drips on his sticky hands and catch him as he slides down the slide.
He made the kind with salt & pepper hair, and also a few with shiny heads. Tall, round, short, skinny. Each one has a heart of gold and a, every single minute of every single day, a quest to understand the child hiding beneath the bell curve.
Then came a grandma for meatball-making, and memory-sharing, and warm, gentle hugs.
This boy and his autism don’t always like hugs, but Grandma hugs are different, you see. They are very soft. They don’t squeeze too tight.
Aunts for cookie-baking, and uncles for joke-making, and cousins for movie-watching.
God looked at this collection of people and the ice cream cone and the rushing waters, and he decided to call them family.
He wasn’t finished yet, though.
He knew he also needed people who could reach through the crushing anxiety and the twitching fingers, and help this child learn.
Someone who will sit on the floor after lunchtime and practice letters, and understand the zones of regulation, and make visual schedules with little pictures on them.
He made a teacher.
He made men and women who are fearless, and brave, and who challenge every limitation the spectrum disorder imposes like parenthesis containing a sentence.
People who guide and direct and educate, and every single minute of every single day, work to see the child beneath the bell curve.
But wait, God thought. How will he get to school? Who will welcome him each morning with a warm smile and wave to him every afternoon and make sure his backpack doesn’t get left behind on the seat?
Why, a bus driver, of course.
Lastly, the Lord made a dog.
Not just any dog. He made the best dog he could imagine—one who would sit still through the tantrums and offer his soft neck for tears.
After God made the family and the teacher and the bus driver and the perfect dog, He decided we needed something a little unusual—something unexpected.
He decided to make a whole bunch of people who don’t understand autism.
These people stare in restaurants and whisper into cupped palms and say things that sound like nice frosting-on-a-cake ideas, but when you listen hard, they don’t sound like sweetness and sugar. They sound like sour judgment.
These days it seems like everyone has autism!
Taking medicine all the time can’t possibly be good for him, can it?
Maybe he just needs a little more structure.
God sat high upon the clouds within the bluest sky, and he thought about the mothers and the fathers and the brother and the sisters.
He thought about the teacher on the play rug, and the driver behind the wheel, and grandfather waiting at the bottom of the slide with his arms outstretched.
Together, they will stand around this boy in the tall, tall grass. They will marvel at his memory, and dance to his music, and balance butterflies on the tip of their fingers so he might admire their orange wings.
Then they will turn around, and they will be his voice.
Oh, my cousin has autism! He loves popcorn.
I teach kids with autism.
A boy on my bus has autism.
My brother has autism.
My son has autism.