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Embracing life and its unexpected twists

By Darcy L. Fargo

Darcy Fargo

July 18, 2018

“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
- Mark 9:37

“Have you thought about having him evaluated for autism?”

I’ll never forget when I heard those words uttered by the speech therapist working with my son, who – at the time - was just a month shy of his second birthday and almost completely non-verbal.

Jacob, we usually call him “Jake,” received his official diagnosis two months later. Then, he was classified as having Pervasive Developmental Delay – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS); sort of the mid-point in the autism spectrum. Under the new diagnostic standards (updated in 2013), he’s classified as having “mild to moderate” autism spectrum disorder.

There’s grief with such a diagnosis. There were many tears; tears shed over the struggles we assumed he’d have, tears shed over the perceived loss of that “perfect child,” and tears shed out of uncertainty.
I’ll admit, there was also anger. I was angry at God for the mere existence autism and for its impact on my son. I was angry he’d have to struggle. I was angry that we’d have to watch him struggle.

We’re now nine years removed from that diagnosis. Those were years full of speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, special education pre-school, Committee on Special Education meetings, trips to see specialists, working with direct support professionals, coordinating services… They were also years of incredible growth.

Those early tears have been replaced by other tears – tears of laughter and joy. Jake is now a chatterbox (that’s actually an understatement; he never stops talking). He went from unable to handle even remotely loud noises in enclosed spaces to enjoying movies, musicals/theater and live sporting/entertainment events. He’s slowly adding foods to his severely limited diet.

Anger has been overtaken by celebration. We’ve celebrated hitting developmental milestones other parents likely wouldn’t even notice (I remember once saying, “Look! He pointed to express intent!”). We’ve celebrated academic success. More than anything, we’ve celebrated and continue to celebrate joy and love. This little big man finds extreme happiness in simple things. He is very funny. He is compassionate and loving.

After reading the Natural Family Planning articles (found on pages 6, 7 and 8), and after experiencing the loss of a beloved family pet this week, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the gift of life.
My son is a gift from God. I have no doubt about that. He and his life are full of joy, love and humor, and he is a gift to anyone lucky enough to get to know him.

May we all value the beauty and sacredness of the lives we’ve been given to live ourselves and those with which we’ve been entrusted.

May we treat each other with the dignity and sacredness due to children of God.

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