You would have laughed too! Jeni asked if I was laughing at her, or just laughing at what she was doing (I am not sure what the difference, is but I said the latter). She had her leg propped up on our bathroom counter like an NFL punter in full extension so that she could clip her toenails. I chuckled, she asked her question, and I said, “you’re short.”
Five minutes later I began to shave. It had been a few days, so I began with our hair clippers. Those clippers blow decapitated whiskers everywhere so I dropped to both knees in order to keep my face close to the sink and minimize the mess. Jeni looked at me, impersonating Gulliver in a Lilliputian bathroom, and said, “you’re tall.” To quote the great philosopher White Goodman, “Touche!”
Believe it or not, there is a point in there. I am just trying to illustrate how our different physical designs create different obstacles for us to overcome. Identifying that I am tall, and accepting that fact empowers me to manage my life and all that my tallness brings. It doesn’t make me inferior to Jeni, nor her to me, but it does acknowledge that we operate on different planes.
We have some friends who spent the day at Shands Hospital to receive a formal evaluation for their son. Why? To officially determine if their little boy had autism. They have noticed things and they have had professionals confirm their suspicions (informally), but they wanted to receive an official diagnosis. You might be wondering why would parents want to have their child “labeled?” Why not just keep on keeping on and treat everything as normal?
Imagine having a little boy running around your home. He is a fun-loving ball of Play-Do and delights anyone he meets. But, he is having a hard time athletically. You kick him a soccer ball but his return pass is awkward and it doesn’t make it back to your feet. So you place a ball in his hand and ask him to throw it to you. His uncoordinated motions direct the ball well off target. Not only that, but he is way behind with the manipulation of eating utensils. His siblings all were feeding themselves by now, but he keeps dropping food, missing his mouth, and making a big mess. At your wit’s end, you take him to a specialist and after a thorough evaluation the doctor gives you the news. “Mr. Kringle, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that your son shows no signs of cognitive or physical delays.” Confused, you look back at him and say, “What’s the bad news?” As delicately as possible the doctor replies, “You have got to stop assuming that junior is just like you and your other children. Junior is simply left-handed!”
I hope you can see what I am getting at. The value of a diagnosis is in establishing the proper methods in which we interact with the people around us. Discovering that your child has autism is not a scarlet letter; it’s the key to a healthy relationship with him. How frustrating would it be for all involved if our hypothetical “Mr. Kringle” kept forcing his left-handed son to use his right hand? Multiply that times 462 and you will have an idea of how frustrating and impractical it would be to force an autistic child to function “typically.” It would be like punishing a blind child for not being able to see!
I know that sounds ridiculous, but it happens. Perhaps not with a blind child, but frequently with an autistic one. If a parent is unaware that their child has autism, they will function in an endless cycle of insane frustration. Were that same parent to learn the correct diagnosis, they could then rethink their strategy and finally begin to understand their child.
Saying that a child has autism or Cerebral Palsy is really no different that saying that I am tall or that Steve Young is left-handed. It is an accurate description. It doesn’t make us any better or worse than each other, it simply describes us. Notice, I didn’t say “identifies.” Our identity is not found in our physical or mental descriptions. Our identity is tied to the truth that we were fearfully made in the image of God. We, every one of us, are prized creations! Our identity and worth are rooted in that truth.
So today my friends learned something new about their son. And that discovery will help all of us be better friends and ministers to one another. You can follow their whole story (because Ashley is a blogger too) at Stinker Babies.
Gulliver, signing off.