Despite the fact that we are no longer able to congregate in a place of worship, it's important to pay tribute to how and why this all started. Since the development of this blog, it has shifted directions, much like our lives have shifted as we continue to navigate through this unpredictable journey. I hope you will still find this as a source of helpful information, encouragement and support.
After my son was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (autism spectrum disorder) in May 2010, four more children from three families in our former church family were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. That brought the total of children under the age of 10 on the autism spectrum within our church family to 7!!! Although we found ourselves in great company, this was a group or “club” for which none of us had volunteered.
Having worked with kids on the autism spectrum since 1994, it hit a special nerve to see my child and so many of my friends’ children being diagnosed. I'd been an advocate for autism awareness for many years, WAY before my son came along. Suddenly, I had an even greater sense of urgency to help these children and families.
Each of these children, though diagnosed within the same “category,” was unique in their needs and their strengths. Strengths… well, they have many! We, as their parents, can only hope that people will see our children for who they are and for all they can offer to their families and communities.
I found myself in a unique situation of being both the professional and the parent. This gave me a platform to speak freely about raising a child on the autism spectrum and the resources and techniques I've found successful in my clinical practice. This blog grew from that place: a place to share resources from a perspective that other parents can relate to. I earned more credibility by being an autism mom than an OT for 20+ years! My suggestions and recommendations on this blog are my personal opinion and merely what has worked in my experience. Please check with your child's medical team before using any different strategies or changing anything you're already doing.
Below you will find more background on how this blog started. Things have changed since then. I created a special needs ministry for children at our church that worked for all the other kids but mine. So after over 3 years of running the program and over 6 years at our church, we made the difficult decision to stop attending and give Nathan the weekends to regroup. It just became too hard, too painful and too traumatic to drag him there each and every Sunday. One of us ended up injured and usually bleeding. We also no longer walk with a team. We've parted ways and mostly walk this path alone... so the rest of this page makes me cry. I have kept it here because it's still relevant. One day we'll find a place for us...one day!
Where this blog is going: http://findingpeaceinthepuzzle.blogspot.com/2014/02/a-seismic-shift.html
Written in 2010:
One community that drives my passion is the public school system… to that cause I have dedicated over two decades of my life. However, my attention turned towards the church community about 7 years ago… WAY back when the doctors were still telling us that we would not have children naturally yet we walked by faith. Having dedicated so much of my life to helping kids with special needs be included in school, it shattered my heart to see that just does NOT happen in most churches… especially in the Hispanic/Latino culture.
Families of children with special needs are forced into making tough decisions: stop going to church all together, split the family so one can care for the child while the other goes to worship, bring the child to church only to be asked to be quiet or leave, and, most painful of all, to have to tolerate the multiple callous stares. Countless families have left our churches for these reasons. These families live with daunting daily struggles, often feeling extremely isolated and alone… yet the church becomes more of a burden than a solace. The oasis churches should be for these thirsty souls are unreachable mirages in the desert.
I know God sent our son to us with a purpose… a perfect plan. He knew that in our home and family he would be loved, cared for, but most of all understood and accepted. Some days are hard beyond belief and it is only by God’s grace that we are still standing! In spite of his struggles, my son is one of the happiest and most loving children I know. However, his spark, light and joy are often shadowed by his challenges, particularly when we are away from the comfort and safety of our home. In fact, my son's MOST challenging time of the week is going to church on Sunday!
I believe this is why children with special needs are not readily included into our church communities. Particularly those who act, behave, look different, don’t “fit the mold” or “go with the flow.” I believe God gave me this passion and love towards children whose light and spark are not always easy to see. It was He, in His omniscient knowledge, who led me towards this path: first as a therapist and graduate student specializing in autism, then a mother and a servant of God.
If I, in fact, believe in Romans 8:28, then I truly must trust in Him that my experiences and my pain can help me better serve others… and that “all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (NIV).
“Peace in the Puzzle” was a group created by Christian parents and families who bonded together for this cause. We chose this name for it is ONLY through Jesus Christ that we find peace in the midst of the puzzling world of autism. Our message is clearly explained in Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope" (NKJV). We banded together to raise funds and walk together in our efforts to raise funds for autism.
But why stop at just walking? Why not use our faith and strength in numbers to advocate for acceptance for these same individuals and families within the body of Christ? Please join our families in raising awareness and helping to build acceptance for these bright angels of God. Help us pray that our church communities will open their minds and hearts towards these families… but most importantly, help us pray that other families on this journey may also find His “peace in the puzzle."
“And the king will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly I say to you, in as much as you did it to one of the least…you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40 NIV