Dear St. Lukers and community,
As you may know, April is Autism Acceptance/Awareness Month. The rate of Autism Spectrum Disorder has grown greatly, and today it is thought that 1 in 44 children are on the spectrum.
I am glad I was asked to share with you something about Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. My younger son has ASD and it is not an easy journey. Our small family of four does not have an extended family in the USA, and I’m so grateful that I have found a village of love, care, and support among the St. Luke’s community as we journey through this life and its challenges.
Autism is a serious developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact with others. It impacts the nervous system. Despite there being no cure, therapy can help individuals improve their abilities to function reasonably well in society. Individuals with autism can live happy, meaningful lives. If there is greater awareness and acceptance, these individuals can integrate better into society.
Our son had speech delays and this led us to investigate further. Suffice it to say that as parents, we were devastated when we received a diagnosis of ASD when he was 3 and a half years old. I remember that once I slowly began to accept the diagnosis, one thing I really wanted was for him to know and feel that Jesus loves him and that there are people who care for him, too.
Today, I’m so glad that he knows God’s love for him. He loves coming to Sunday School at St. Luke’s and being a part of the fun activities. All he wants is to be included! This makes him so happy and as his parents that makes us happy!
Something to remember is that autism is a hidden disability; i.e. by looking at the child/adult you most often can’t see that he has a disability. It’s only with interaction that you realize something is not typical of others. Furthermore, the autism spectrum is wide. The abilities and disabilities of each individual on the spectrum can vary greatly.
Our son has therapy 5 days a week, so he can understand and interact better with the world around him. He wants so much to be included in activities. He is just a boy who wants to have fun with others. However, it is also important for children and adults around him to understand him and be sensitive to his limitations. For example: it’s best to speak with him in short, concrete sentences. Speaking a little more slowly will help him understand you better. When giving him a choice, it’s best to give him two or three options. All of this will help him integrate better.
Of course, we as his parents understand that there are difficulties, but ultimately inclusion in as many ways as possible would be a beautiful thing. All that is needed is a little extra understanding and care.
“God is LOVE.Whoever lives in love, lives in God and God in them.” – 1 John 4:16
Dayani Fernando, St. Luker