Susan Jane King

Thriving with Jesus in life's ongoing challenges

What I Learned from Some Autistic Young Adults

Patrick speaking at the panel discussion

My son Patrick recently was asked to serve on a panel that discussed the experiences and advice of young adults with autism. The three young men and one young woman spoke to a room full of parents and caregivers at the monthly meeting of the Rowan County Chapter of the Autism Society of North Carolina. The panelists amazed me with their wisdom and demeanor. Yes, they shared valuable insights into the world of autism, but they also taught some important truths in the way they interacted with one another. Those interchanges impacted me the most. Here’s what I learned from them:

Be honest

One panelist introduced himself as “Gray . . . not Greg, not Gary. My name is Gray. Please do not call me by another name.”

Those of us watching the discussion chuckled at his comment, acknowledging the honesty and literalness you usually find in autistic individuals.

Unfortunately, one of the panelists made the mistake of calling Gray “Greg” about halfway through the program.

“I told you not to call me that,” Gray blurted out.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Lewis said. “I’m terrible with names.”

He smiled at Gray.

“Me too,” Patrick said. “I’ve always struggled with that.”

That was it. Issue resolved. Everyone said how they felt, and they moved on.

There’s something refreshing about honesty. Everyone knows how they stand. The issues are out in the open.

Recently, I’ve been watching an issue involving some misunderstandings. Everyone is dancing around the subject, instead of addressing things head on. It’s a mess.

We are told in God’s Word, “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15, NASB).

We are also instructed, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37, NKJV).

Honesty goes a long way toward clearing up issues. The truth comes out on the table for everyone to see, deal with, and hopefully resolve.

“People seem to like my honesty and literalness,” Patrick said during the panel discussion.

He has always been quick to try to resolve issues, and once they’re resolved, he moves on. Gray did the same. Once he communicated how he felt and everyone acknowledged it, he forgot about it.

The Lord calls us to work out issues in honest, honoring ways . . . whether we are upset, or someone is upset with us.

He says, “‘If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother’” (Matthew 16:15, NKJV). He also says, “‘If you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering’” (Matthew 5:23-34, NASB). Sometimes, the best way we can honor the Lord is to show love and respect to others.

I saw a great deal of honesty and sincerity among the autistic panelists. There was no pretense, no attempt to impress. They were simply themselves, and it was beautiful.

Be kind

Lewis, a young man on the panel, broke out into spontaneous applause several times when he thought a panelist mentioned something significant. By the end of the event, he was getting the audience members to do the same.

Hebrews 3:13, NASB, says, “Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today.’” Encouragement certainly flowed freely among the panelists that evening.

Rachel, a spirited young woman on the panel, floated around the room after the discussion and told each panelist what a great job they did. She asked for their emails so she could invite them to IGNITE, a social group for young adults with autism.

These young people understood and accepted one another. They championed one another’s success. There was no competition, no spitefulness, just a genuine respect and desire to see the others succeed.

Jesus said, “‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another’” (John 13:34-35, NKJV).

The word love in this verse is agapao. It means unconditional, unrelenting love; a determined goodwill that seeks another’s best interests.

I saw that kind of love in the panelists toward one another. Love and respect with no strings attached. They gave freely to one another and expected nothing in return.

Be welcoming

Prior to that Tuesday evening, the panelists had not met one another. Yet, they welcomed one another with grace and kindness. One panelists flapped his fingers. Another paused and got stuck in communicating her thoughts. It didn’t matter. Each member of the panel was greeted warmly and accepted by the others.

In a society that often builds fences and categorizes people into groups, the young adults on this panel communicated worth and a warm welcome to one another. They did the same with the adults who attended the meeting and wanted to talk with them afterwards.

They reminded me of how Jesus would welcome anyone who came to Him . . . people like the woman at the well (John 4), the Pharisee Nicodemus (John 3), and the tax collector Zaccheus (Luke 19). In fact, He says, “‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls’” (Matthew 11:28-29, NASB).

I experienced a great deal of gentleness and humility in the autism panelists. They nodded gently when panelists shared their challenges, and they laughed deeply when they confided amusing stories. They smiled when panelists offered advice or talked about personal accomplishments. They were available to welcome and help others. I could tell they did not view the evening as something about them . . . they were focusing more on being available to the other people there.

I saw them living out Philippians 2:3-4, NASB:  “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

I suppose the panel discussion impacted me so much because I saw the traits of Jesus in those young men and that young woman: honesty, kindness, and a welcoming heart. I’m asking the Lord to develop more of those qualities in me. I saw how greatly He can use those qualities through a profound gathering of young autistic adults.

Question: What has the Lord taught you about Himself through observing others? Comment at the link below.

 

Ephesians 4:15; Matthew 5:37; 16:15; 5:23-24; Hebrews 3:13; John 13:34-35; 4; 3; Luke 19; Matthew 11:28-29; Philippians 2:3-4

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Nothing is Impossible with God!

Pfeiffer graduation

Eighteen years ago, doctors told us our son Patrick was autistic, mentally retarded, and might not ever speak. A few weeks ago, Patrick graduated magna cum laude from Pfeiffer University. He sang “Corner of the Sky” at commencement, which is all about finding your place in this world. Those in attendance gave him a standing ovation, and the president of the university cried.

Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). The Lord has the final say about how things will go, and we can trust Him to work out everything from a position of power and authority and a heart of love and compassion.

It is hard to see that sometimes when we are in the middle of difficult or even overwhelming circumstances. But we can trust the heart of God, and we can choose to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). It’s in that process of walking by faith and not by sight that we get to discover more about our loving Lord, and we get to open our lives to His perfect plans. That’s where He moves to do the impossible, and where we fall on our faces in awe.

I know this because I have been there. After all these years, I got to see what God was doing as I watched my son sing at graduation and receive a college diploma. Yes, the accomplishments are amazing, compared to the world’s predictions. Yet, the most blessed part was learning to choose faith over fear and discouragement during countless challenges and trials . . . and in the process, learning more about and drawing closer to a Lord who is eternally faithful and good.

We can count on these truths when we are overwhelmed:

God is able.

God makes over 8,000 promises to us in the Bible. He says He works everything together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28). He says He brings beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3). He promises we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). He also tells us He has magnified His Word according to His name (Psalm 138:2). In other words, what He says is on the same level as who He is; He is able to keep His promises to us because He is God! We can put our confidence in what He says because He said it.

When we are overwhelmed, we have a choice to make: Will we trust what God says, or will we go with feelings or worldly messages that would lead us in a different direction. Every overwhelming place is an opportunity to choose faith, to believe that God “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, NASB).

God is enough.

When I first found out Patrick had autism, I cried out to God. I told Him how life was going to be so hard for Patrick and how that broke my heart. I told Him I didn’t feel equipped to raise a special needs child. I told Him, “I can’t do it!” That’s when I heard Him whisper to my heart, “You’re right, you can’t. But WE can. Will you trust Me?” I realized at that moment I was feeling so broken because I wasn’t trusting Him. I was looking at myself and my resources instead of my loving Father, who could meet my every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

God is enough. “If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32, NASB). When the Lord is on our side, we have everything and anything we will ever need. We have HIM.

God has a plan.

The secret: It’s not about us. The truth: God allows us to experience the overwhelming so that we and others can learn that He overwhelms the overwhelming. He is great and worthy of all praise. That verse in Ephesians 3:20 is followed by, “to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:21). The word glory means to manifest [show, display], to give an estimation of. It carries the idea of making God known, allowing Him to be seen.

The impossible place, that overwhelming circumstance, is where Jesus can be seen and experienced by a world that needs Him. When we yield up those impossible places to Him, not only do we draw closer to Him, but He also can use us to draw all men to Himself (John 12:32). That’s the stuff that matters, the stuff that lasts long after the overwhelming places fade away.

Patrick and I now have the great blessing of telling others what God has done. Through our book Optimism for Autism, speaking engagements, and personal encounters with others, we can share with others that: God is able. God is enough. God has a plan.

Whisper those words to your heart the next time you are overwhelmed.

Here is a link to Patrick singing “Corner of the Sky” at the Pfeiffer University commencement. As you watch it, remember, “Nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, NASB).

Please feel free to share this blog and video link to encourage others about the God of hope (Romans 15:13).

Question: How has the Lord shown you that nothing is impossible with Him? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

Susan Jane King

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Why a Heroine with Borderline Autism?

abnormal results

Powerful. Riveting. And the main character has autism. My author friend Kimberly Rae has just released a new book entitled Abnormal Results. As the parent of autistic child, I am so impressed by how accurately Kimberly portrays the world of autism. I fell in love with the main character Victoria and found myself cheering her on as she coped with the many challenges she encountered through her autistic-like qualities. Everything was so familiar to what our family has encountered. This book opens the door to the world of autism and gives a hopeful glimpse into those hearts of those who struggle with it. Parents of autistic children and others impacted by autism would benefit greatly from reading Abnormal Results. I am certain anyone who reads it would discover as I did that “abnormal” means the Lord is doing something way beyond what we could ever imagine!

I asked Kimberly to write a guest blog post so you could learn more about her book. Check it out:

Why a Heroine with Borderline Autism?

It sounds strange when an author says one of their characters took on a life of their own, but that’s exactly what happened with Victoria Dane in my new Young Adult novel, Abnormal Results. Not only did she surprise me as a person, she completely took over the story, so much so that I ended up writing the entire book from her perspective.

Victoria is borderline autistic. Autism was not in my plan for Abnormal Results. Originally, the story was meant to be about four really close friends, and how the friendships changed when one of them got cancer. I got this idea for the cover of four ducks in a row with one of the ducks being knocked over. Though readers let me know the cover idea was too juvenile for a teen book, the ducks in a row stuck with me and I decided I wanted to incorporate the actual ducks, not just the concept, into the story.

ducks in a row

Suddenly Victoria, the closest friend of the boy who gets leukemia, took over. They were her ducks, and they represented her friendships and even her world. She kept them in a perfect line on her windowsill, and as long as they stayed exactly where they should be, she felt safe.

The prevalence of autism in U.S. children increased by 119.4% from 2000 to 2010. (CDC, 2014) Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability (CDC, 2008), and that’s just referring to those officially diagnosed. What about all the kids who aren’t official, but have many of the same needs and struggles?

And what happens when those children become teenagers? I wanted to imagine how the regular angst of teenage life, of relationships changing and people changing, would be to a kid with special needs.

Again, Victoria surprised me. She feels different, “abnormal” as she likes to say, and clings to her few few friends who make her feel accepted and safe. When Chad, her best friend, gets cancer, and then the other two of the four drift away, Victoria feels alone. But a teacher has been driving home the point that “The right choice is not always the safe one,” and Victoria takes it to heart. She decides to reach out to another kid the same way Chad once reached out to her. In doing so she starts a chain reaction and learns that being abnormal is a lot more normal than she ever thought. She finds that all of the kids around her have something about them that they feel is different or unacceptable. She starts facing her own fears and finding she is stronger than she ever knew.

The book was meant to be about cancer, but it has become a larger message: that life sometimes hits you with hard things (cancer, autism, school violence) but what matters is how you face it and whether or not you overcome.

I’m glad Victoria took over my book. I wish I’d known her in high school when I was insecure! I hope teen readers will find her a fun new friend, who might just help them accept themselves more, to be proud of who they are, and to brave doing more than they think they can.

 

Excerpt from Abnormal Results:

CHAPTER three

 

I haven’t been entirely honest with you about the ducks, or my friends, or me for that matter. The truth is I’m not fifteen. I forget sometimes and really think I am, until someone asks why I’m the only one in my class with a driver’s license. I’m not supposed to be in the same grade as the other dorks. And I’m not what most people would call normal.

After my first year of kindergarten, some people decided I needed testing. I remember hearing whispered words, technical terms like Autism and Asperger’s , but in the end the important people diagnosed that I didn’t quite have either. I just really, really liked things to be in order.

My need for structure and routine was labeled as “significant” by the experts, who told my parents first grade would be too much for me and I’d be better off going through kindergarten a second time. Who fails kindergarten? They said I was “developmentally challenged” and it would help me to learn how to adapt to free play and other things that were hard for me because they weren’t structured. I don’t remember having a hard time during free play, but it seems the experts did not think that my arranging all the blocks in perfect lines according to color and shape was healthy.

I need things to be in order. Like ducks in a row. We joke in our family about mom always asking that when we leave the house, but I know it is our secret code, just between her and me. She’s asking if everything is in order. If I’m okay, and things are as they should be, so we can leave the house without me…I don’t know, panicking I guess. She says when I was little if I was putting my toys in perfect rows and we had to leave the house before I’d finished, I would start screaming.

I don’t scream when things aren’t orderly anymore. Not on the outside anyway. That’s almost entirely due to Mom’s unending patience, and my friends, the dorks. That second year in kindergarten, Chad and Dan and Alecia befriended me and stuck with me that entire year. They showed me how to play with the other kids instead of sitting at my desk arranging pencils through recess. They taught me how to act normal enough that I didn’t scare my classmates away.

Chad would practice phrases with me for hours, having me repeat them with the right intonation so I would sound warm and friendly.

“Good morning. How are you?”

“I’m fine. How are you?”

“See you later.”

“Have a nice day.”

Dan taught me to throw and catch a ball. And his laugh was so contagious, I learned to laugh just from being around him.

Alecia brushed and braided my hair, kept my shoes tied, and kept me close to her when other girls came around. She knew how to talk and make friends, and when I was with her, people accepted me.

With them, I was safe. The dorks didn’t care that I was a year behind. Over time I stopped caring too. I wanted it to stay that way forever.

Thinking of things changing makes me scream on the inside.

 

 

You can order autographed copies (signed to the kids you love!) at

http://www.kimberlyrae.com/abnormal-results-ya-fiction/

 

 

Kimberly Rae lived in Bangladesh, Uganda, Kosovo and Indonesia before Addison’s Disease brought her permanently back to the U.S. Rae has been published over 300 times and has work in 5 languages. Her suspense/romance novels on international human trafficking (Stolen Woman, Stolen Child, and Stolen Future) are all Amazon bestsellers. Find out more or order autographed books at http://www.kimberlyrae.com.

 

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Choosing to Love

 

Kinsley Bear 2

The Kinsley Bear

I received the bear pictured at the top of this blogpost a couple weeks ago. It means a great deal to me because it was given from a place of great pain . . . and tremendous love.

The bear is called the “Kinsley Bear,” named after a local couple’s beautiful newborn daughter, who lived only a few hours after being born with unexpected health issues. Kinsley’s grandfather gave me the bear after Patrick and I spoke at their church.

The back of the tag on the Kinsley Bear reads, “This bear has been among the congregation of Faith Lutheran Church. It has heard the Word read, prayers prayed, praises sung and sermons preached. It has been loved by Faith Church Family and has soaked in God’s love. Now it comes to you with blessings of the love and grace of Jesus.”

My family had seen many of the bears sitting in the back pews of the church on the Sunday we spoke there. We didn’t know the special meaning behind them until we received one—with an autism ribbon attached.

My eyes brimmed with tears as I held that bear and read its special note. I was overwhelmed by that family’s choice to continue to love others in the midst of their own personal pain. When tragedy strikes, we can be tempted to pull away, to harden our hearts so they can’t be hurt again, to try not to feel any more. That’s why Kinsley’s brave family made me cry . . . they were choosing to love, and I knew that choice was going to impact countless lives.

A tender heart:

Keeps caring

We are told in Ephesians 4:32, NASB, to be kind and tender-hearted toward one another. It is written in a verb structure that means to keep on doing something. Being kind and sensitive toward others truly reflects the heart of Jesus. He was always sensitive and responsive toward the people around him, stopping to talk with them and reaching out in love. Whether it was the woman at the well, a religious leader who came to Him at night, the desperate father of a sick little girl, or a Roman commander who was concerned about his servant, Jesus kept caring about every person who crossed His path. He wants us to do the same for one another.

Reaches out to others

I was touched that Kinsley’s family had made the effort to get and attach an autism ribbon pin to the bear they gave me. Patrick and I spoke at their church about the hope we found in the Lord while living with autism for the past 22 years. The autism pin on the Kinsley bear communicated love, understanding, and acceptance to me and my son. The members of Kinsley’s family had set aside their own pain and struggles in order to reach out in love toward us. It was such a picture of Jesus’ sacrifice to me:  “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, NASB).

Lets Jesus fill it

I know the only way Kinsley’s family could love like that was because Jesus filled their broken hearts . . . and His light and His love was flowing out of the broken places. They refused to close off their hearts to Him.  Instead, they chose to receive Him and what He had for them in the midst of the pain, and they opened their hearts and hands to share the gift of Him with others.

I know this is what has happened and is happening to them. I’ve seen it in a cuddly little bear wearing a bright autism ribbon.

Question: How have you experienced the tender heart of Jesus through others who have chosen to love? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

Susan Jane King

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It’s Good to Need Comforting

comfort2

Are you hurting and in need of comfort? Good! . . . because the Lord is doing something special in that place.

This past Sunday, Patrick and I got to share our story with the members of Faith Lutheran Church in Faith, NC.  As I watched the members of that sweet congregation respond to our message, I realized once again, this is not all about us!

God was moving. He was doing something through our words.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV, says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

Whatever we are experiencing, God wants to do three things:

God wants to comfort us

It says, God “comforts us in all our troubles.” He is “the God of all comfort.”  In the Bible, that word comfort means to “console, encourage, refresh, instruct, give peace, and advise.” The Lord provides all of these things. Every difficulty represents an opportunity to draw near to Him, where we can find all these gifts in abundance. We come to know Him better and love Him more when we do.

For the past 22 years, while living with Patrick’s autism, Patrick and I have been comforted over and over by the God of all comfort. His arms have been wide open to receive us the entire time . . . and they still are today. We know and can speak about the deep comfort He provides.

God wants to use us to comfort others

After we have that deepening experience with the Lord, we are equipped by experience to comfort others. When we share our story, those listening can receive it because they know we have lived it. God receives the pain we lay on His altar, and He gives us the gift of compassion in return . . . our hearts are moved toward others who suffer because we have suffered ourselves. The Lord empowers us through our trials to love as He loves.

On Sunday, Patrick and I shared about the many gifts of hope the Lord has given us through living with Patrick’s autism. We watched the members of the congregation shed tears and receive comfort from our message. The Spirit moved to comfort others through our message. We saw the scriptures come to life before our eyes: “if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer” (2 Corinthians 1:6, NIV). The Lord did that, and it was beautiful.

God “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4, NIV).

God wants to make Himself known

Through our experiences, we have the opportunity to know the Lord on a deeper, more intimate level . . . and then to share what we have learned about Him with others. That’s what Patrick and I got to do on Sunday. We were able to share about how we got to know the God of hope through our journey, and the Holy Spirit used our words to reveal more about Him to the members of Faith Lutheran Church.

We all have a story to share, and the Lord is the main character in each of our stories. Our lives are meant to display Him to the world, like a candle in the darkness, drawing others to the light of His comfort and love. By His power and grace, the Lord can make Himself known through us.

Patrick and I never could have imagined in the early days of his diagnosis that we would have the opportunity many years later to tell others about the God of all comfort. Yet, that is what has happened. We are witnessing the truth of how He works everything together for good (Romans 8:28) . . . for us, for others, and for His glory.

Now that’s something worth talking about!

Question: How do you need to be comforted? Comment at the link below, and we will pray for you! Would you run to the God of all comfort today, knowing you might have a story to tell tomorrow?

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

Susan Jane King

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Becoming More Aware and Accepting of Autism

EPSON scanner image   191KingDSC_7990

Patrick and his sisters.

 

How did my daughters learn to be more aware and accepting of the challenges their brother faced with his autism? Since today, April 2, is World Autism Awareness and Acceptance Day, I would like to post the chapter from my book, “Optimism for Autism,” which shows how that happened. May all of us seek to be more aware and accepting of those whose lives are touched by autism and other challenges.

 

Chapter 6: Walking in Patrick’s Shoes

“Be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”

—1 Peter 3:8, NIV

 

My heart went out to my daughters.  They were young and needed attention, too.  They didn’t understand about Patrick’s autism.  My saying, “His brain works differently than yours,” wasn’t cutting it with them.  Praise God for the TEACCH Center!

“Bring in the girls, and we will explain to them about Patrick’s autism,” Sue said. (Sue McCarter was one of the specialists who helped Patrick at TEACCH.)

So, one crisp autumn afternoon, I loaded up the three girls and Patrick into our family van and headed to the TEACCH Center.  Oh Lord, please help them understand their brother.  Help them appreciate him for who he is, I prayed.

I didn’t want them growing up to resent Patrick or the time I had to spend with him to help him.  I knew God gave us Patrick for special reasons, many of which were still unfolding.  I wanted them to learn to trust God in the midst of everything, which I was still learning to do.

“Why don’t you stay out here in the lobby with Patrick while we take the girls back and talk with them?” Sue said.

“Okay,” I said.  “Have fun girls!” I hoped the positive tone of my voice would wash over them and take hold.

 

In an hour or so, Katie came bounding back into the room, her auburn hair flowing behind her like the jet stream of an airplane. I could tell her flight pattern was in direct line with her brother, who was standing on the other side of the room, his eyes trained on the multiple colors and patterns found in a painting on the lobby wall. My autism alert system immediately went into effect.

I struggled to intercept Katie before she initiated a major meltdown. Emily and Sarah were trailing along behind Katie. Their pace was much slower and contemplative, their eyes full of wonder.  I instinctively knew I would not reach Katie before she bombarded her brother with a barrage of unexpected sensory input. I braced myself for the chain reaction. Suddenly, Katie jerked herself to a halt. Her brother, aware of his sister’s presence, steadily turned his gaze toward her.

“May I give you a hug?” Katie asked.

I caught my breath.

She had never asked for permission before.

Patrick slowly nodded, and Katie gently put her arms around him and squeezed. Emily and Sarah had reached them by now, and they, too, asked for permission to embrace their brother. Patrick agreed, and I watched a miracle unfold before my eyes as my four children held on to each other and freely gave and received one another’s love. Patrick had prepared his nervous system for that encounter because he knew it was coming.

A new light had dawned for my daughters. They knew Patrick lived sequestered away in a fortified city with the name of Autism, but now, someone had shown them how to gain access to Patrick’s world. And they had enthusiastically entered the gates and had found their brother inside.

Thank You, Lord, for allowing my children to find one another. Help them to continue to grow strong and close. Lead them to cherish and defend each other because You have made each one of them unique and special, I prayed.

 

I gathered up my brood and headed out the door. On the way home, my daughters chattered about their experiences at the TEACCH Center.

“First, they took us into this big room,” Katie said. “Then a lady walked in and started talking to us. Only we did not understand what she was saying. She kept making sounds, and we could tell that she wanted us to do something. But we did not know what she wanted.”

“Yeah, she sounded like, ‘hyuk, grumm, dawt,’” Emily said.

Sarah giggled.

“Miss Sue told us afterward that she was speaking German!” Katie said.

“She told us Patrick hears words like that,” Emily said.  “He hears the sounds but doesn’t always know what they mean.”

I watched Emily’s face soften as she spoke about her brother’s struggles.

“Tell Mom about the gloves!” Sarah piped in, proud that she was part of the discovery team.

“Well,” Emily said.  “They took us into another room with tables, and there were pennies all over the tables.  They had us put on these big, wooly gloves, and then they told us to pick up the pennies.”

“We couldn’t do it,” Sarah said.

“Have you ever tried to pick up pennies when you had gloves on?” asked Katie, not wanting to be left out of the conversation.

“I don’t think I ever have,” I said, grinning inwardly.

“Well, it’s really hard!” Katie said.

“Why did they make you do that?” I asked.

“They said that’s what Patrick feels like when he has to do things with his fingers,” Katie said.  “They said it’s really hard for him when he has to do stuff like button his buttons, write with a pencil, tie his shoes, and cut with scissors.  He can’t get his fingers to do the things he wants them to do.”

A swell of gratitude was building inside of me.

Thank You, Lord, for using the wonderful people at the TEACCH Center to help my daughters better understand their brother, I prayed.

“Ice cream and spinach!  Ice cream and spinach!” Sarah announced.

“What about ice cream and spinach?” I asked.

“They helped us understand why Patrick freaks out about certain types of food,” Emily said.  “They said his tastes are all messed up.  Like, he might eat some ice cream, and it would taste like spinach.”

“Yuck!” said Sarah, wrinkling up her little button nose and turning her mouth into a grimace.

“Wow!” I said.  “That’s awful.”

“Yeah, and guess what else?” Katie said.  “He hears sounds really loudly.  They took us into one room and played this music soooo loudly, and then they told us that Patrick hears sounds that loudly.”

“We had to cover our ears,” Sarah said, demonstrating with her own hands.

“I bet that’s why he goes crazy when we go running around the house making all kinds of noises,” Emily said.

“I feel bad for Patrick because so many things are hard for him,” Katie said.

“Me, too,” Emily said.

“Me, three,” said Sarah, quickly joining in.

“Things that are really easy for us are a struggle for him,” said Katie, growing unusually still and silent.

For once, I was grateful for the long drive back to China Grove.  It was giving us precious time to reflect on the treasure of discoveries uncovered at the TEACCH Center.

“Yes, many things are difficult for Patrick,” I said. “But God promises that He causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.  So that means He can take even Patrick’s autism and use it for good . . . for Patrick, for each of us, for others.  And I think it’s teaching all of us to trust Him and to rely on Him, which is a very good thing.”

The three girls grew silent as they pondered my words.  Patrick continued to doze in his car seat, the rhythm of the road creating a gentle nodding of his head.

What had I learned that day?

A little understanding goes a long way.

How many times had I made a snap judgment about someone based on their outward behavior?  How many times had I reacted in frustration or anger, or defined someone as “good” or “bad” without making any attempt to understand what was happening in their life?

Lord, help me to see people as You see them, I prayed as the odometer continued to click the miles toward home.

 

Patrick’s Perspective:

I love my sisters. They mean a lot to me. After that day at the TEACCH Center, they started to understand what I was going through. I feel like they love me and care about me. I am grateful to have such caring sisters.

God taught me that He supplies all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19, NASB). God knew I would need lots of support, so He gave me a wonderful family to help me along the way. My dad taught me a lot about being strong and brave, being a man who honors God, and never giving up. He tells me I am his hero. But really, he is mine. He even challenged me to hike Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States, and we did it—together. (See Chapter 12.) Along the way, I learned to face my fears and be strong, like a man.

And my mom has taught me a lot about God’s Word, and she prays with me and reminds me to go to God with all my problems and challenges. She has helped me a lot over the years taking me to therapies, working with teachers, and helping me to be organized, too. And my sisters Katie, Emily, and Sarah and brother-in-law Curt (Katie’s husband), and all my relatives, they accept me for who I am, and they love and encourage me all the time. They have been a huge blessing to me.

 

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT:

Are you dealing with someone you do not understand?

What could you do to understand them better?

Would you ask the Lord to help you see people as He sees them?

HAPPY AUTISM AWARENESS AND ACCEPTANCE DAY!

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

Susan Jane King

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Persevering with the Lord

Swim Conference

This photo of my son Patrick and husband David was taken at Patrick’s conference swim meet last week. Their smiles came in the wake of some personal triumphs for Patrick . . . victories that were hard won by persevering with Lord.

The conference swim meet is the “holy grail” for the Varsity Swim Team at Pfeiffer University. Swimmers work hard all season, aiming to reach the pinnacle of their preparation and performance for the conference meet in mid-February. Patrick had trained and competed for six months, and he was right on schedule to put in some of his best swim times during the conference meet . . . until he got the flu.

Fever, chills, aches and pains, exhaustion, breathing difficulties . . . the entire gamut hit him about 2 weeks before the meet. He missed a week of his classes and swim practices. When he finally got back in the pool, he felt weak, and he struggled being able to breathe during his laps. His doctors told him he would not feel 100 percent healthy for two full weeks after the flu, a schedule which took him well beyond the dates of the conference meet.

“Mom, I’m nervous about the conference meet,” he told me early in the week. “I can’t catch my breath in the pool, and I am so tired. I really want to do well at conference, and I’m trying. I’m just concerned I won’t get the results I hoped for. Will you pray for me?”

“Of course!” I told him, “and I will ask lots of others to pray too. I know God is going to help you, and Patrick, your story has always been about perseverance, so keep persevering now.”

Diagnosed with autism at age 5, Patrick has faced many challenges in his lifetime: the inability to speak and understand language, severe coordination issues, difficulty in interpreting the input from all of his senses, social struggles, and educational issues. Yet, I noticed something powerful in the midst of all the stresses and strains in his life—that young man refused to give up! He kept going, trying, and persevering . . . and the Lord did some amazing work in the process.

The same trend held true at the conference swim meet. Patrick swam his personal best in the 1000 yard freestyle event, cutting 29 seconds off his best time. He did the same in his 500 yard freestyle swim, cutting 14 seconds off his best time. He swam hard, and when he saw his results on the scoreboard, a huge smile exploded across his face. I know the Lord was smiling too. That’s because once again, Patrick swam his race relying on the Lord and expecting Him to show up. And He did.

We, too, can persevere with the help of:

God’s Power

Patrick’s favorite Bible verse is Philippians 4:13, NASB, which says, “I can do all things through Him [Christ] who strengthens me.” Patrick works hard, and then he leaves the rest to God. He allows the Lord to work through him in his struggles so others can see the Lord at work. He’s a perfect example of 2 Corinthians 4:7, NASB: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.”

In our book “Optimism for Autism,” Patrick wrote, “I do not think we should ever give up if God asks us to do something, because He is the One who does it anyway! He can do anything He wants to because He’s God!”

God’s Presence

When we are in a tough spot, that’s where we can encounter the Lord as never before. When the Israelites were trudging through the dangerous desert, the Lord promised them, “My presence shall go with you” (Exodus 33:14, NASB). When Joshua stood on the edge of the promised land ready to wage war, the Lord reassured him, “The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, NIV).

Patrick has shared with me how he has felt the Lord’s presence with him as he has faced his various challenges. The Lord’s presence energizes us to keep moving forward . . . with Him.

God’s People

When I told Patrick that family members, friends, and members of my Sunday School class and Ladies Bible Study group were praying for him in the midst of his conference challenges, his face lit up. I could see the joy, hope, and peace that displayed itself in his countenance. Patrick believes in the power of prayer, and he exhibits a humble gratitude every time I tell him about others who are praying for him.

We all need each other. We have a great privilege, responsibility, and blessing in praying for one another. We are called to “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2, NIV), and to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV). When we come alongside one another in the midst of our struggles, we are blessed.

Last week marked the completion of Patrick’s junior year of collegiate swimming. I know he will continue to teach me and others about persevering with the Lord in the seasons to come.

Question: What examples of perseverance has the Lord shown you? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

Susan Jane King

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Triumphing in the Long Trial

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Patrick and I

Stephanie Seneff, a lead researcher at MIT, recently predicted that HALF the children in the United States will be autistic by the year 2025. When I heard that shocking prediction, I thought of the many families that are and will be affected by that challenging disability.

My family has been living with my son’s autism for 21years. During that time, the Lord has taught us that the way to triumph in our trials, especially the long ones, is to focus on three things:

The Presence of God

Whatever we face, the Lord is always with us. He promises to never leave or forsake us, and He tells us He is always there to help us (Hebrews 13:5). In fact, our difficulties and trials grant us the opportunity to experience greater aspects of Him—His character, nature, and ways. We can go deeper with Him than ever before. Whatever He allows in our lives, He intends to use for good—for our good, the good of others, and the good of His kingdom purposes (Romans 8:28).

Over the years, as we dealt with Patrick’s autism, I sought the Lord. I cried out to Him for help. I asked Him to lead me, teach me, mature me, and draw me closer to Him. I learned intimate and power truths about Him that were forged in the furnace of adversity. I had to choose to trust Him during every drought and storm, but through the process, my roots went down deep into the soil of His love.

In the midst of the long trial, the Lord says, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3, NASB). He promises, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him” (John 14:23, NASB).

The Provision of God

When the Lord allows a long trial in our lives, He provides what we need to gain the victory in it and the blessings from it. He promises to meet all our needs (Psalm 23:1; Philippians 4:19). His goodness and lovingkindness (covenant love) remain with us all the days of our lives (Psalm 23:6).

Looking back, I can see the Lord’s loving hand at work, directing help, support, and resources into our lives. Therapists, teachers, caregivers, friends, and family members helped me and my family to persevere in dealing with the constant challenges of autism. I am grateful He opened my eyes to see His involvement in my life. Most of all, the Lord provided Himself and the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and comfort me and my family along the way. In the end, we were more than conquerors through Christ who loved us (Romans 8:37).

The Power of God

God is mighty and powerful, and He can do whatever He desires in heaven and on earth (Daniel 4: 35). In fact, He “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” [His power] (Ephesians 3:20, NASB).

My son Patrick was diagnosed as autistic and mentally retarded. Doctors said he might not ever speak. He could not tie his shoes until he was 13 years old.  But the Lord had the final say. Patrick received academic and athletic scholarships to college. He is a junior in college with a 3.89 grade point average. Even more, the Lord enabled him to speak . . . and sing. He and I have been given the blessing of telling others what the Lord has done.

The Lord shows up and works in our long trials—if we let Him, “so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NASB).

The Lord is doing something in your long trial. Will you allow Him to show you His presence, provision, and power in it?

Question: How is the Lord revealing His presence, provision, or power to you? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

Susan Jane King

For more information about the MIT predictions regarding autism, visit: http://althealthworks.com/2494/mit-researchers-new-warning-at-todays-rate-1-in-2-children-will-be-autistic-by-2025/

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