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Special Needs children – sent for a specific purpose

World Autism Awareness Day is being commemorated this Sunday, April 2. Lyra Thompson-Hollingsworth, a Special Needs parent and a member of the Bethesda Catholic Community reflects on her experience.

Being a mother of three (current ages 12, 11, 8), the first two having been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and navigating all that goes with it has been no walk in the park. In fact, being a single, special-needs mama is probably one of the hardest things I may ever have to do in this life. Notwithstanding being a woman of faith, I have questioned God many times about His will for my life. More precisely, I have directly asked Him if He was sure if He knew what He was doing in choosing me for this job.

Yes, I have had the audacity.

But then I think of Jesus’ words, “You do not realise what I am doing, but later you will understand…” (Jn 13:7).

The challenges of parenting, yet alone special-needs parenting, can be daunting, unfathomable, and downright frustrating at times. More often than not, actually. The difficulties are both varied and profound, which has often led me to ask forgiveness for my sins and those of my ancestors, because CLEARLY, I or one of my great grandparents must have carried out unholy acts so that now I must do this act of special needs parenting as a means of atonement.

Am I wrong? Maybe not entirely.

Am I right? Highly unlikely.

The Lord Himself declares “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways…” (Is 55:8). The questioning is an important part of the journey which allows you to see that the “Why me?” mentality is just our pride speaking, even if just for a moment.

I have recently come to a place in this walk, that my children were sent. Sent to accomplish specific goals, “[His] purpose will be established, and [He] will accomplish all [His] good pleasure” (Is 46:10).

Over time, I suppose I will figure out the others but the very first one that was revealed to me, is that my children will help me to grow in holiness, on my way to wholeness.

It takes mindfulness and grace to accept and work with children with developmental delays and executive functioning issues, even when they are your own offspring.

And even as I learn and grow in the domestic space, we live in a world, and I daresay, and participate in faith communities that would rather not see or have to interface with persons with disabilities, especially when those disabilities are intellectual/developmental like autism.

But I am learning to “consider it a great joy…whenever [I] experience various trials, knowing that the testing of [my] faith produces endurance…endurance must do its complete work, so that [I] may be mature and complete, lacking nothing”

(Jas 1:2–4).

Naturally, as a special-needs parent, I find myself being an advocate of sorts, to carve out paths of inclusion, speaking up on their behalf and finding new ways for them to experience the joy and beauty of this world.

For they are in fact beautiful souls, and many aspects of parenting that are usually taken for granted, I have been allowed to experience them in more deliberate and punctuated ways, in solidarity with so many others who are navigating this terrain.

Most of all, there has never been a moment when I have asked God to intervene where He was unresponsive, for, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfils the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them” (Ps 145:18–19).

He has not abandoned us and always answered prayer just in time. I rest firmly in the knowledge that my offspring are in fact His children, so He is ultimately responsible for their well-being. He simply won’t allow them to suffer.

Will some of my sanity be sacrificed in the process? Probably, but at the very least, I have the faith to know that we all will be fine in the end, for, “The Lord himself goes before [us] and will be with [us]; he will never leave [us] nor forsake [us]. [We] will not be afraid; [nor will we] be discouraged” (Deut 31:8).


Prayer for those with autistic children

Heavenly Father, we adore You, the Father of us all! We ask You to assist those families with an autistic child. Give these parents wisdom and angelic help in their care for their children. Help the child’s siblings to be patient and to grow in self-giving love. Grant these families Your special support and give them friends who understand and love them. Most merciful Father, give light to scientists and doctors so that they may find the solution to autism. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.