I once read that the most annoying characteristic about a child will likely be their greatest strength as an adult. Sounds promising. Although I have yet to discover how the inability to distinguish the floor from the trashcan can become the crowning glory of my child’s future. Maybe it is a foretaste of some deep, latent artistic expression.
But I have reason to believe it can be true.
One of the characteristics of autism is the difficulty of regulating of emotions. There is no buffer, no moderating force that tones down the pain or regulates the euphoria. It’s all or nothing, raw, emotional expression that is there for all to see whether it’s in the classroom, the church or in the grocery store. Tears flow, cries become sobs and anger can become unpredictable.
But sometimes it can be a blessing.
Last weekend, our church showed a video during services that celebrated God’s work throughout our church’s 150 year history. The last photo lingered on an image of a young man, arms raised high, an expression of utter joy radiating from his face as he leapt up out of the baptismal water. It was my oldest son with Asperger’s.
His younger brother, who shares the same diagnosis, has another trait. Stubbornness. When he sets his jaw and resolves his mind, nothing will move him. (Except, maybe, for a slice of pizza.)
But this past summer, attending a camp not meant for special needs teens, that same stubbornness became a resolution to live six weeks in the wilderness. Although burned with 2nd degree burns (he forgot to use sunscreen) and feet lacerated (his shoes floated away on rapids the first day), he paddled and portaged his canoe for 100 miles, he slept on the ground with spiders, swam with leeches and pushed through emotional overload/anxiety that would at times, overwhelm him. His stubbornness became courage that inspired his campmates who, with a “cinnamon roll” hug of 20 big guys, said a heartfelt goodbye on his last day.
And then there is my daughter. Thankfully, she has no disability. But she does have a crazy penchant for wild colored hair so representative of her fun-loving style and determination to be unconventional in our very traditional home. But because of the existence of disability in her brother’s lives, her unconventional ways combine with an unconventional compassion that draws her toward those that others dismiss as “uncool”–often with disabilities–and invites them into the coolest thing ever: friendship and belonging.
Annoying hair-color, fashion madness. Rigid stubbornness. Unbridled emotions. All sides of a coin whose flip side is also blessing.
But household trash to treasure? I’m still working on it.
Question: What troubling character trait can you pray about for your child that God might show you can also be celebrated and used as a blessing?
Don’t forget to vote for Not Alone in the About.com Readers Choice Awards. You can vote every day until the contest ends March 19th.