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Autism and Community: How Passion Unites and Connects



One of my deepest fears as a mother of a child on the autism spectrum was the thought of My Baby going through this world alone.


As long as I have breath in my body, I knew he would have me.


So, I came to an irrational resolve.


I can’t die.


Ever.


Because, who is going to love My Baby like I will love My Baby.


Once I came to accept the realization that I would one day die, I became obsessed with preparing him for my death.


“Lord, I need to teach This Baby everything before you call me home. So, he will be okay in this world after I’m gone.”


I know those seem like morbid thoughts.


But when you hear a diagnosis of autism…the mind goes blank.


Everything you thought you knew…everything you prepared for…every dream and vision you had for your child’s future and your future just disappears in that moment.


Then, after you catch your breath, the mind goes into overdrive…working out endless hypothetical situations based on this new reality that feels like a hard blow to the chest.


I was 35 and having these thoughts about the life of my FOUR YEAR OLD.


“I can’t die. Ever.”


“Okay…Lord, I am going to die one day so I have to prepare This Child to LIVE.”


NOW!


So, I became hyper focused on My Child.


Parenting was life or death to me…literally.


By the time he was in the 3rd grade, I came to the realization that My Baby may not be able to make friends.


That he may never have a buddy, a homie, an ace, or a road dog.


I’m a loner. Yet, I couldn’t imagine life without at least ONE good friend.


So, I desperately sought a community for My Child.


Without success.


It is one of the most heartbreaking things to watch your child all alone with people all around them.


So, I just poured into My Child.


I’m going to love him so hard that he won’t notice who’s not around.


I’m going to cheer for him so loud that he won’t notice that I may be the only voice in the crowd.


I am going to pour so much into him that if someone tries to take something away from him, he won’t even notice because he is operating in the overflow of My Love.


And, I am going to do so much with him that he won’t even noticed that it’s just the two of us.


So, we did EVERYTHING!!!


I followed every interest and inclination My Child had.


And by 6th grade (his last year in elementary school), he had three solid interests.


Music, Art, and Roller Coasters.


Since four year old, those three things have consistently fascinated My Son.


So, when he started middle school, I decided to go all in and follow those three interests.


Honestly, I wasn’t thinking as heavily about friends, while he was in middle school.


I was thinking about something that weighed on my heart even heavier during that stage of development.


“He’s going to be grown soon and he going to need a marketable skill to sustain himself in this world.”


Given the characteristics of his autism and my knowledge of My Child, I felt in order to thrive, he was going to have to make money doing something he really enjoyed…a passion.


So, I began to invest heavily in supporting the development of his passions…in the hopes that they would lead to the development of marketable skills.


And, I lived in that space until this year.


I have said time and time again that we are in our harvest season.


I say that because, this year, things just clicked.


His art skills got better, seemingly overnight.


Because he combined his art with another passion of his…roller coasters.


Then, after having the opportunity to serve as drum major during Band Camp, his confidence skyrocketed, seemingly overnight.


I began to notice that he no longer needed me to follow his inclinations and interests to help him develop his passions.


He was intrinsically motivated to do it himself.


And, I was tremendously proud of him.


But, the blessings got bigger!


Towards the end of the year, something magical started to happen.


I was watching my child’s communities form right in front of my eyes.


He found a group of roller coaster enthusiasts online. And in that group, he met people who share a passion about a common interest.


They spend hours talking about elements of roller coasters in such detail that it almost sounds like he’s speaking another language.


Then, a couple weeks ago, at the Band of the Year competition in Atlanta, I had an experience that has taken me over a week to process.


While talking to another parent, after the competition, I heard some teenage boys calling My Son‘s name.


They ran up to him with such enthusiasm. They were genuinely excited to see him.


The young men were high school students at Southwest DeKalb and they had been in Band Camp with SDYM.


One of the characteristics of Ricky II’s autism is that he mightn’t immediately recognize you or know your name even if he has had multiple conversations with you, especially if you approach him outside the context of how you originally met or interacted with him.


So, I sometimes operate as his handler, telling him the names of people and reminding him how he knows them.


I was fully prepared to jump into the teenagers’ conversation.


But, the young men had it covered.


I watched them re-introduce themselves to Ricky II, explain to him how they knew him, dap him up, then move right into what I would describe as a typical teenage conversation.


Friends, in 17 years of parenting, I had never seen that.


It felt like heaven. It felt like God’s light shined down on My Child right there in the lobby of the arena.


And it brought me PEACE and a JOY that I could not contain.


Then with art, he is finding his voice by combining two of his passions and people are reaching out to him because they recognize his gift and want to support him.


They hear and understand his language.


They see My Baby.


He is not alone.


This was not my master plan. I don’t have to the capacity to have done this on my own.


This was God.


By giving space for Ricky II develop his passions, a path was made for him to find his people.


And, I am walking into 2024 able to rest easy because my deepest fears no longer live inside of me. Because due to the blessings of this year…


1. I believe with My Whole Heart and Entire Soul that Ricky II will go to college and develop marketable skills that will empower him to sustain himself in this world.


2. I believe with My Whole Heart and Entire Soul, that Ricky II will have communities filled with an abundance of love and mutual respect…because his passions have led him to his people.


God is SOOO GOOD!!! And, My Soul is finally getting some rest.

Praises to The Most High!!!


Thank you, Father God!!


The seemingly impossible is truly possible through the Mercy and Goodness of the God I serve.


Thank you, Lord, for our harvest season.❤️🙏🏾

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