Wednesday, March 13, 2013


I could never understand why people wouldn't want a child with special needs.

Somewhere inside me, I always bore some resentment toward people who learned that their children had Down syndrome or other disabilities before they were born, and had a hard time still seeing that child as a gift.

It simply didn't make sense to me. As a family, we chose Levi and Evan. And I didn't understand why other people wouldn't choose children like them.

All of that changed when Levi was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

There had been signs, of course, but I had never explored the possibility of Levi having another diagnosis besides Down syndrome.

When I found out he had Autism, it sunk in quickly. It just felt right. I didn't deny it. How could I? It made sense.

But Autism is different from Down syndrome. I had come to terms with Down syndrome years before, and I truly believed with all of my heart that it was a blessing.

And I was an avid fighter for the perfection of kids with special needs.

God doesn't make mistakes, I argued. And if you truly believe that, then God didn't make a mistake creating a child with Down syndrome. Or Cerebral palsy. Or even Autism.

And I championed that wholeheartedly. I believed it. I owned it.

Until Levi was diagnosed with Autism.

Suddenly, special needs didn't seem so rosy and wonderful. Sometimes I got hit. Sometimes my hair got pulled. I got spit at almost every day. When I asked Levi a question, sometimes he wouldn't respond. And even when he did, he didn't often look me in the eyes.

Every day was a battle. Every day, a struggle. And I wondered to myself, Is Autism really a blessing?

Do I really believe that?

And for a while the answer was, No. It's hard to see the good side of Autism when you've got saliva in your hair, and your hand has teeth marks on it and your shirt is covered in cheese puff dust.

But I was focusing too much on the negative. About the things that Autism prevented Levi from doing. Or the things that made my life harder.

But there are things about Levi's Autism that I love.

For instance, the boy loves musicals. Especially Les Misérables. He knows every second of the three-hour 25th anniversary concert by heart because he's watched it so many times. Would he love Les Mis so much if he didn't have Autism?

I don't know.

I love taking walks outside with Levi, hearing him listen to the wind, and stop to examine sticks, and wave at all the dogs we pass. Would he be so meticulous about enjoying every little thing if he didn't have Autism?

I don't know.

Would his laugh be so contagious if he didn't have Down syndrome?

I don't know.

Would he still love to dance if he didn't have Down syndrome?

I don't know.

What I do know is that God formed him perfectly. Formed him in his mother's womb. Formed him with a plan to be in our family. A plan where he had Down syndrome. And Autism.

Levi is many things: sweet, musical, stubborn, silly...

A mistake is not one of them.

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