“April is Autism Awareness Month”

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Here is a story written by the man in my life, that he posted on his blog “I See It Differently”. In it, JB shares his experience as a father who is single-handedly home-schooling and raising his son with autism . In my opinion, he symbolizes what a “real” man stands for (and who he stands WITH, for that matter). Please take some time to read this article. Whether autism touches your life or not, chances are, you know a family that is dealing with the challenges that this condition presents. I know of what I speak from personal experience, as my brother and his wife are also raising a teen with Asperger’s Syndrome. My niece is a smart, extraordinary young lady that I will have the pleasure of spending some “up close and personal” time with this month when I visit friends and family in Chicago.

I recall all their family struggles (both personal and legal) to get my niece the educational support that she richly deserved…and their pain when she would sometimes be ostracized by her peers. And all the tears,(and those in private by her loving parents) when she would be left out of birthday parties and sleep-overs and ask “Why don’t they like me?”.

So today, I am sharing JB’s story–I am blessed to have this man (today is his birthday and his son, Jarred’s, is in a few days on April 5th and he will be 16) and his wonderful children–all of them–in my life. And he is an exemplary father that knows when to be firm and when to pull back and give his brood a safe place to fall. And I also think of my brother and his wife and the fabulous job they are doing raising all their children…loving them all, but rising to their very different needs in their own personal pathways.

And if you are a parent of a “normal” child, hug them a little closer and remember “There but for the grace of God, go I” and count your blessings–JB is counting his sweet, talented, wonderful, funny son as one of his.

I heard once that “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is called ‘the present’, for it is a gift. On April 5th, JB and I will celebrate our birthday gift and his name is Jarred.

And here’s what my JB wrote:

“The funny quirks of living with someone with autism..

Just a few words today since April is Autism Awareness Month. Having a son that has Asperger’s Syndrome is sometimes a challenge. Most people may have never heard of it before. I know I hadn’t until my son was diagnosed with it. He really struggled in school with “social skills”. He would freak out if someone sat too close to him or touched him and would cry over things that others around him may not even notice. It was devastating to him if he didn’t know the answers to questions asked by his teachers. He was a loner and wouldn’t join in when the class was having class discussions and would sit apart from the rest of his classmates.

Kids are brutally honest sometimes and quite often that honesty can turn cruel. He got teased a lot and picked on quite a bit. It was heartbreaking every time, because what appeared to be weakness was in reality a love and compassion for everyone. When you like people, it’s hard to be mean back to them, even when they are the aggressors. When he was small, I would give him his allowance of various coins and a few bills. And almost every time we went somewhere that had a donation box on the counter, such as McDonalds, he would empty his pockets of coins and bills into the donation box with the simple explanation, “They need it more Dad”. CHECKMATE! Taught by a six year old.

A few of his “quirks” are funny and quite challenging. He won’t eat hot dogs unless the ends are cut off. He tears the edges off of his bread. He won’t eat anything unless he reads the ingredients on the package. He hates change and would wear the same clothes everyday if I let him. He loves scotch tape and uses it on everything. He has a routine and hates to deviate from it.

But it also comes with some amazing things also. He can draw and paint with an uncanny talent. He can hear a song once and remember almost all of the lyrics. He can tell you about battles during WW2, the major people involved and the types of weapons they used that intrigue even veterans that fought that war. His sense of humor is unforgettable. 

The thing I find most amazing is that at a week away from his 16th birthday, he still often comes up to me, he as tall as I am, and puts his arms around my neck, gives me big hug, and says “I love you dad. You are the best father in the world”. I wouldn’t change that for a “normal” kid in a million years.”

 

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