Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

The Calm after the Storm

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

The Calm after the Storm

Article excerpt

Find your posse. Find your peace. Do whatever it takes to find your calm

This past Sunday I had the good fortune to hear our pastor deliver a sermon entitled "Be Calm," which frankly should be my mantra as I navigate the autism world with my two sons. I sat up a little straighter in my pew to take in his words, receptive as always (although perhaps not in practice) to any suggestions that will help reduce my sometimes chaotic life.

He related to us a story of how he had traveled to noarthwestern Kenya several decades ago to visit a mission, and shared with us one of the most terrifying moments of his life. He was visiting his brother-in-law who had befriended an African there, one who greatly desired to show both men his treasured family farm, sixty kilometers and an extremely bumpy ride away from where they were staying. This was a remote place in Kenya, and for point of reference the sixty kilometer drive was more than four hours in the opposite direction of the nearest phone.

After a ride through the jungle that only a native of the land could navigate, the three men finally stopped, and their guide explained to them that it would now be another hike up a steep mountain to actually reach the family farm.

Our pastor, reeling from jet lag, time changes, and the relentless heat declined to make the final journey, encouraging his brotherin-law and his friend to go on without him. They did, at which point our pastor was left with a locked van and no idea when his companions would return. He felt completely isolated.

Isolated, but not alone.

Within minutes native Africans had appeared on the scene, and began gesturing and pointing at our reverend. After discovering that the van was locked (and contemplating why his brother-in-law locked a van when they were more than four hours from any type of civilization) he put his head in his hands, and the thought came unbidden into his mind that he might not make it out of there.

As he said, he was far from the familiar. Out of solutions. Out of ideas. Out of energy.

Out of hope.

Quite honestly in my autism journey with my boys I have felt all of those things, and I didn't even have to leave the country.

Our pastor went on to describe how this experience lent itself to increasing his empathy toward other peoples' obstacles, explaining that to him life appears a jungle at times. He described dense thickets of broken hearts, and empty wallets, both of which we have endured with our two sons. He invoked forests framed by hospital visits, and I couldn't help but think of the dozens of doctor visits we've had in four different states over the last eleven years.

Although our minister pointed out that we don't generally encounter the sounds of wild animals in our daily lives, I thought about how autism families often endure the complaints of other people when they brave the public with their autistic children, how our outings are sometimes devoid of compassion from others. He discussed how our creditors are our predators, and I thought back to the thousands we spent monthly many moons ago on our eldest's home program when we resided in a state that offered us at most two hours a week of therapy to address the core deficits of Justin's disorder.

I thought of other predators who steal our calm too. Our sons' collective struggles with sleep. …

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