On Sunday, Sarah Palin is expected to speak at and participate in a fundraising walk for the group Autism Speaks in New York. Walks for autism awareness and research are usually held all summer long across the country. While Sarah's youngest child, Trig, has Down's Syndrome, she understands the emotions and needs of families with a special needs child.
My family has gotten a double dose of autism. My two youngest children were diagnosed on the autism spectrum as toddlers. My husband and I ran the gamut of emotions: despair, denial, anger, and acceptance. Through hard work, intensive therapy, and the Grace of God, they have blossomed into high-functioning autistic children. They are happy, health, and, most importantly, loved.
I always asked myself the question all special needs parents do: "Why did this happen to me?" I have a theory.
As I grew up, I was one of the few children who didn't tease the mentally challenged kids in our school. My mother had always told us that this was never acceptable, and woe to us if she had ever heard that we had behaved that way. After my children's diagnoses, I came to the conclusion that God gave us these wonderful angels knowing that they would be loved and not belittled or berated.
Autism has caused me to look at the world in a different light. When I hear a child screaming bloody murder in Wal-Mart, I consider the possibility that this child could have communication and sensory issues. I've walked that path. Before my daughter could communicate, I was kicked, scratched, bitten, and punched when her aggression flared. To see her today, you would never guess it is the same child.
I thank God every day for these cherubs. They have taught this family patience, understanding, and unconditional love.