We all like to be champions for a good cause, right? You and me both want to be heroes for someone… anyone.
April is Autism Awareness month. You may not have known that. If you scroll through your Facebook feeds you might see someone wearing a T-shirt with red, blue, and yellow puzzle pieces. This is the autism symbol.
Tonight I was catching up on my facebook feeds as my husband Vance was watching a hockey game, we are Canadian after all. I think he was following that team, the one that is the most famous, but never seems to win…the Maple Leafs…ya them.
I was happily scrolling, ignoring the game, when I came upon this photo in my feeds:
This is Dwayne Johnson, otherwise known as “The Rock.” Dwayne is an incredibly funny and talented actor, and I think it’s beautiful he is raising autism awareness.
Living with Autism
But it caused me to pause for a moment and look over at the man I have been married to for twenty-nine years. I had the thought, “Imagine if autism awareness to my husband, just meant wearing a t-shirt.”
This morning I had said to Vance, “wouldn’t it be nice to be retired, get up, drink coffee and start our day whenever we want?”
He had a look on his face that said, “I wish.”
Vance’s mornings are kind of crazy. He takes calls from his men who work for him, plus he cares for our grown son Kyle who has autism. This morning I heard him moping Kyle’s floors, showering him, giving him his seizure medication and gathering up his laundry. He also gets to listen to Kyle’s CD, Passing the Faith Along, by the Gaither Vocal Band, for the millionth time, while he mops, and Kyle is in the shower.
Before you go thinking I’m a slacker, this was my job for twenty-five years. Vance took over since Kyle became more than I could physically handle. If Kyle doesn’t want to do something…he ain’t doing it.
Who’s Smarter? Kyle or The Parents?
Vance came downstairs looking like he had run a marathon. Kyle was in a playful mood and was pulling his usual antics. Recently he’s been distracting us by pretending he wants something then sneaking into the pantry when we aren’t looking to grab chocolate. The doors on the inside of our house are all locked with a press-code-handle. But Kyle knows to pull a fast one if he sees we forgot to shut the door to a room. Sometimes he’s running off with bras and underwear.
This young man is smarter than both his parents combined, but we all know I carry most of the smarts. Well, according to my husband when he gives me logical ideas, he doesn’t reap logic back from me. Okay, I’m a woman, and I don’t think concretely, I think sporadically and randomly. Which keeps us both from becoming bored.
Back to my topic.
Raising awareness for autism can be done in a thousand different ways. We realized that people like Kyle, who has severe autism, often times are not in their local community, due to anxiety. Many cities don’t even know they exist.
What Autism Really Looks Like
Some folks believe autism comes with a genius mind and savant talents. Well, that would be wonderful if this was what all persons with autism had. Unfortunately, this is not the case for most of them. Our son Kyle cannot have IQ testing done. He doesn’t speak enough to be able to test his IQ.
That doesn’t mean he isn’t intelligent.
Kyle is funny, charming, loves music, has perfect pitch, and can remember conversations from years before. I’d tell you he’s brilliant… I just can’t prove it to you.
He started to repeat conversations word for word that Vance and I had in front of him but didn’t realize he was genuinely listening to until his school teacher told us…how embarrassing.
With autism, there usually comes a sleeping disorder…for the parent. This causes the parent to eat massive amounts of food and gain an alarming amount of weight. The strain of caring for a child who cries, kicks, screams, bites, and pounds the walls can also cause a marital breakdown.
Thankfully, and with God’s grace, we will be celebrating thirty years of marriage this year. I am not bragging since we almost killed each other. Read my book, I dare you! It’s over to the right in the margin, Beauty from Ashes. The description is terrible (getting a new one soon), but the book is impressive.
Our four kids who are younger than Kyle can make you acutely aware of autism. They will give you a course in, How to Hide Your Stuff So It Doesn’t Get Flushed Down The Toilet. They are also experts in CIA manoeuvres. Our teens could open the front door of our house better than any sleuth you’ve seen on TV. If they didn’t do it correctly at 11:10 pm, this led to their brother screaming murder and mom and dad finding out they were late. Everyone raising teens should have a Kyle in their home.
*Want to learn more about our kids being raised with a brother who has autism? Read: My Brother’s Keeper
Kyle’s choice of clothing since starting a new medication three years ago is the same as the emperor in that child’s book. Yes, the invisible clothing. This quickly shuts down your social life as a teenager and causes you to only hang out with your family. Bringing the whole family together peacefully like the family on, Cheaper By the Dozen.
The fridge may or may not have ten apples that all have a bite taken out of them. You can quickly remedy this with a gluten-free apple crumble. Don’t tell the kids the apples had been slobbered on previously.
Autism has caused me to meet some pretty impressive people, who were kind enough to frantically wave at me at stop lights to let me know my gas lid was wide open. If I was a single lady, I could meet a husband this way. Currently, I like the one I have. Upgrading him is pretty much impossible since he wears a halo from putting up with my absentminded, clumsy, food-burning habits.
Vance almost landed himself a second wife in a grocery store. He had one eye on Kyle who was standing in front of the toothbrush display (at one point we owned a hundred toothbrushes) when a lovely lady was walking towards Vance. Kyle picked this as the moment to dart out of the aisle right between Vance and the lady, whose arms were full. She stumbled, lost her footing, careened forward, and her head bounced off Vance’s belly, as he fumbled to catch her. If they’d both been single, he could have said he swept her off her feet. But she left in such a red-faced hurry he didn’t get a chance to ask her her name or apologize.
This led to me crying in the van…sometimes you laugh till you cry.
If you want to rob a bank, bring Kyle with you. He knows how to clear a building in 30 seconds. He will, quicker than lightning, pull the fire alarm for you. You will then have four minutes until six men with a shiny red truck show up with flashing lights. For some reason this causes Kyle to laugh hysterically and his parents to be utterly humiliated.
Want to pick up a date for the prom? Kyle will help you. Give him a bag of pretzels in church on Sunday morning to chew on, so he sits still. When he has the urge to sneeze, the wet pretzels will land in the teenage girl’s hair in front of you. You can then use it as a pick-up line. Pick-up the pretzels, and she might go out with you. (This causes his parents to argue over who will telling the poor girl, actually no one did.)
Do you love to be hugged, smiled at, and your self-esteem built up? Just become Kyle’s friend. He will make you feel like you are the best thing since gluten-free bread. Take Kyle for a boat ride, motorcycle ride, or drive in your truck and he will never forget you.
We could wear a t-shirt to raise autism awareness, or we could share with you what’s it is like to live with a courageous young man who battles autism every day. Kyle doesn’t have it easy, he has a list of disorders the length of your arm, that came with autism. But he has tried so hard to fight each and every one, and live a life of joy and happiness. Kyle’s suffering brought our family many blessings. He has been an autism hero.
The Blessings of Autism:
💗A family who needed God,
💗A marriage healed
💗Siblings who are compassionate
💗A book was written
💗A website created
💗People came to Christ
💗You learned a little more about autism
Raising a child with autism has been one of the most bizarre adventures of my lifetime. We’ve climbed the steepest mountains, explored deep valleys, almost drowned in rivers, survived tornadoes and seen glorious sunshine. But nothing compares to having a husband who loves his son despite autism, siblings who cherish their brother, hearing Kyle say, you’re the best mom in the world (okay maybe I bribed him with a cookie.)
If Kyle made you laugh even once with one of his stories, he would be delighted! Sometimes he puts on funny hats just to get a chuckle out of us.
I hope you see the joys and struggles of raising this wonderful young man. Kyle can’t tell his story, so we say it for him. Wear a puzzle t-shirt this month and raise awareness for autism. Better yet, be an autism champion and press share for Kyle, and all the other courageous people who battle autism…
Heroes who may not always be seen, but want to be heard💗
“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him,
for he shields him all day long,
and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.”