Three days before Mother’s Day, our 12-year-old son was removed from our home by police escort and taken to a psychiatric hospital. The months leading up to this event were filled with several inpatient and outpatient hospital stays because of his constant obsessions over suicide, death, and all things dark. Our weeks revolved around therapy and watching him around the clock to keep him safe. Intense is not a big enough word to describe the turmoil and daily battle we were living—and had honestly been living for years.
It was just a year ago in June that we received the official diagnosis for our son: Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder. This diagnosis had been missed by previous professionals or explained away as “just poor/bad behavior.” When the diagnosis finally came, a flood of relief washed over me, as I knew we would finally get the right kind of therapy and support for our son. Our weekly schedule began to revolve around therapy and doctor appointments, trying to be consistent with a schedule and expectations, and learning how to parent this child in a way that goes beyond just “love and logic.” Come December, we finally added medication to the mix because our son’s mood swings were erratic, volatile, and wrought with anxiety and depression. And frankly after 3 years of living this rollercoaster, we were exhausted. Unfortunately, even with his mood being more even-keel and his meltdowns less destructive, his gifted/ASD mind suddenly had extra clarity and his obsessive nature began to lead him into a deep, dark hole.
Over the past year, fear often threatened to unravel our family. Fear that my son would act dangerously toward himself or others. Fear that my home-based music studio would be put in jeopardy (which is our main source of income). Fear that my husband would not be able to finish his degree program to begin a second career and eventually climb us out of the debt we have incurred from having a special needs child. Fear that our daughter would be affected through this season in ways we cannot imagine. And then, just a few days before Mother’s Day, new questions arose…would he or could he ever return? What would be the outcome of the charges pressed against him? Was there a facility that would take him with all of his needs?
Hope in the Midst of Fear
“The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down…The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.” Psalm 145:14, 18-19.
In the days following our son being taken away from our home, we cried out to God for understanding, for strength, and for assurance. We felt like we had lost our son. The brokenness of his brain had stolen him from us and suddenly we were left with a gaping hole in our family and an unknown future.
As we anticipate many future court appointments and our son’s transition to a long term residential treatment facility, the Lord has revealed several truths to me:
- The Lord of heaven and earth is our son’s Father and loves him more than we ever could. He will care for him, nurture him, parent him and love him in our absence.
- He is the Great Physician and has the power to heal our son and restore him back to our family.
- He is the Great Judge, who will be fair and just with our son and has the ultimate power and ruling over any court on earth.
- Jesus is our son’s perfect Advocate, who represents his best interests and pleads and intercedes before the Judge on behalf of our son.
- Love and discipline toward our son right now looks like this-having him receive the best treatment for his disability, keeping him safe and keeping others safe, giving our family rest and respite in his absence.
- The church community must be given the opportunity to love on families like mine. Our faith can be nothing but strengthened as we share our stories and bear one another’s burdens.
- I need a support group and friends and family who listen and do not judge. I do not hide what we are going through because I need friends who put their arms around me and pray for me.
We live in a fallen and broken world, one where the brain can be hijacked. We don’t know why autism happens, or why God chose my husband and I to parent and care for our son. But we hold on to the hope that God will glorify himself in the process, reveal a peace that surpasses all human comprehension to the watching world, and give us the strength and courage to move forward. At one of many school team meetings this spring, one teacher said to us, “I cannot even imagine what you are going through. You seem to have such incredible strength.” My husband did not miss a beat in responding, “It is a strength that is not of ourselves, but comes from One more powerful than us.”
“The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” Psalm 145:9
Davina’s Recommended Resources for Parents: Do you have a special needs child or know someone who does? Differentdream.com is an excellent place to start, as Jolene Philo has compiled a wealth of resources and information for families to tap into. The Joni and Friends Foundation not only offers a variety of workshops and trainings for church members, but also organizes Respite Camps around the country in the summertime for special needs families. Lorna Bradley’s devotional book Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving, intended for individual or small group study, can be a great source of encouragement and understanding for any family living with special needs.
We understand that autism is a very challenging topic to many because it is broad and the spectrum is so wide. No two individuals with autism are the same and no two families will experience the same path. This is one covenant family’s journey. Our prayers and support go out to families who are suffering with this particular aspect of the Fall.
About the Author:
Davina Perret lives in Littleton, CO with her husband and two children. She is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv), and holds a degree in Music Therapy from Colorado State University, where she worked with special needs children, especially those with autism. She is a member of Deer Creek Church (PCA), where she has served as the Director of Women’s Ministries and plays piano on the worship team.