Autism is still much of a mystery – there’s no real known cause or risks factors, it’s difficult to diagnose, and it appears in so many different forms. No two people with autism are the same and treatments that work for some may not work for others. Teaching and raising a child with autism is hard work, never-ending, exhausting, and often lonely. There is no cure, and treatments are complex, ongoing, constant and expensive. Cecily Paterson is a Christian woman who prayed to God for patience and love. God gave her a child with autism. “Be careful what you pray for.”
This is the other book Jeh gave me for Christmas. Cecily shares her experience of learning to love, through what she learned from her children. When she found out her son had autism, she read everything she could on the topic. She found most resources were too technical, and there was little support or real stories for parents with children on the autism spectrum. She decided to write a blog, and eventually a book, sharing everything she learnt about raising a child with autism. A lot of what she includes is her personal pain and struggle with sin as she faced the biggest challenge of her life.
I found her book very easy to read and understand, for several reasons. Firstly, I’m a woman, and can relate to her on the level of sharing a lot of similar thoughts when I feel I am under pressure and stress, and insecurities of caring too much what others think of me.
Secondly, I’ve worked a lot with people with autism, adults and a child. As I read her descriptions of her son’s behaviours and idiosyncrasies, I could picture the little boy I used to work with on weekends. They had many of the same issues, including toilet-training (even at age 8), how they relate to people, using language only as a means to an end, tantrums, the need for routine, love of Thomas the Tank Engine, repeating phrases from tv shows out of context), needing things to match or be in order and not being able to move on until they were (e.g. colours of trains and which ones could be next to each other), the kinds of clothes they liked (plain block colours, not liking jumpers or shoes), foods they ate (limited to chicken nuggets, crackers, jam sandwiches, tomato sauce, cake and biscuits, no fruits or vegetables), and hyper-activity. I’ve seen how trying to work around and even change these behaviours takes its toll on the family and ministry and relationships. I used to work with him two hours a week and would often come home exhausted or in tears. I can only imagine the stress and exhaustion that comes with being his mother. And Cecily shares so honestly, deeply and bitterly. There were times where she felt she couldn’t continue to love him, times when she was furious at God, times when she felt utterly alone.
This is such a valuable book, again, everyone should read it, from those whose children have just been diagnosed, or long ago, or if you know someone with autism or family with autism, or simply want to know more about it. It’s helpful if you’re even trying to work out how to love others better generally.