The power is in your hands – use it

Published 12:47 am Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I sat Monday night and listened Emily Colson talk about her struggle as a single parent and mother to an autistic son.

It’s not often that I find a connection to those addressing crowds at banquets and such, but Monday was different.

I listened to her talk about sitting in a rocking chair, day in and day out, trying to make sense of her life, her son’s life and their place in the world, and I understood where she was coming from – exactly. Trade her rocking chair for an armchair beside a hospital bed, and I’m there.

I could relate to her struggles with stares and comments and the feelings of inadequacy of being a parent of a special needs child.

At the end of her address, which was no more than 20 minutes, I nearly cried, sitting there in that seat. It was difficult to get my breathing under control, and I’ll confess that I slipped out before the event was over so I could watch my special girls on the soccer field. I’d like to think that Ms. Colson wouldn’t mind.

When people look different or act different, it’s difficult for “normal” people to digest.

Colson spoke of an incident when her autistic son had a meltdown in a grocery store and how people just stopped, stared for a moment and then walked away. Then, she told of how one woman finally offered her kindness and support just when she needed it the most.

The other day, I had a child fall in step beside us at the soccer field. My two youngest had just finished practice, and we were heading to the car. He glanced over, without missing a step, and said, “What’s wrong with her face?”

I explained that God makes people different sometimes, like how I had blonde hair and he brown hair, and we moved to introductions – What’s your name? Jack? Mia, Jack; Jack, Mia. That must’ve been enough of an explanation for him, because he gave a big smile, and said, “Hi.” Mia gave a small wave, and he jogged away.

She waited a bit, looked up at me and said, “I could beat him.”


“At soccer. I could beat him at soccer. I’m fast.”

I smiled at her, and I remember now thinking back, while I was worrying about how his comment would affect her self esteem, she was sizing him up as an opponent. Funny, when you think about it, since she’s on an all-girls team.

And Monday, I watched and smiled as she and her sister shared barbecue chips with another child on the sideline. Support and acceptance are two things most families dealing with special needs long to grasp.

So, remember, that as a friend, neighbor or even as a person standing in the grocery store watching as an autistic child throws a fit – you have the power to grant it.