Let the Rain Come Down

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When I was a small child, I was terrified of thunderstorms. The pouring of the rain, rumble of thunder and striking of lightning often made me quiver with fear. I used to hide under my blanket. I can recall one time when a severe storm woke me up in the middle of the night. I was about 5 or 6 years old. I jumped out of my bed and ran into my mother’s room. I was petrified! She told me to get into her bed. Then, she wrapped her arms around me and held me until I fell asleep.

As I grew older, I became less frightened with thunderstorms. I began to embrace the sounds of rain, the bass in the thunder, and piercing lightning. Soon, I started to see the beauty of it all. The Earth is comprised of about 70% water. The rain makes everything in nature grow. Now, this isn’t about science. It’s about its importance to life.

I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs. I’ve had the pleasure of doing many things I’ve dreamed of. I have a great deal of happy memories and I’ll always cherish them. Yet, I’ve gone through incredibly dark times. Some felt like 2 tons resting upon my shoulders. I’ve cried so many times because I couldn’t see a way out of my situation…I cried a lot!!!

I’m an emotional person. Almost every time I got in trouble, tears poured down my face. I was scolded for crying. The message I received was crying was for the weak. Over time, my crying sessions were done in secret. I didn’t talk to anyone when I needed to. I didn’t want others to think me as a whiny, feeble woman.

It wasn’t until my son’s autism diagnosis that I realized that crying actually the opposite of weak. Many nights I laid awake at night strategizing techniques to assist Preston. I learned mostly through trial and error and, trust, there were several errors before I got it right. Every time, I hit a roadblock, I felt like I was drowning in my tears. It was fight or flight. Those tears helped me choose “fight” EVERY SINGLE TIME! Each teardrop shredded away the pain in my heart and the worries in my mind. They became my shield of strength. I was able to see a solution to my problem. Crying has helped me grow stronger and wiser. It’s rejuvenated my soul and gave me motivation to push through.

Recently, we’ve encountered our most problematic periods. Preston is going through puberty. For years, I was told that raising children on the spectrum can be extremely strenuous during adolescence. I thought I’d be ready but none of the research I gathered fully prepared me for the emotional roller coaster. There are moments where things seem grim. That’s when I’m at my lowest and that’s when I weep until I fall asleep. I’ve learned to appreciate the rain in the same manner. I find solace in rain. I enjoy sitting under shelter and listening to the soothing sounds as it falls. I learned how nature depends on the waterworks to grow.

My tears have helped me realize that in order to support Preston through this phase. It’s given me various perspectives after every meltdown. Also, I’ve realized I had to alter my actions…or more so my reactions. I can’t expect him to necessarily conform to me to the instructions I give him. I’ve had to interpret what he’s communicating even when I view it as being defiant. Maintaining a balance of discipline and understanding that some behaviors are a result of having autism is something I’m working diligently to master.

I feel crying is the Lord’s way of releasing hurt and clearing one’s mind. It brings me closer to Him. It reassures me that I can rely on Him at all times but especially when the odds are stacked against us. I’ve recognized that I cannot focus on how the world could view him but emphasize his value as a human being. He’s an asset to everyone he encounters. His innocent and positive outlook on life is something others can learn from.

Going back to my childhood memory, I can faithfully say that the Lord has always me wrapped up in His arms just my mom did that particular night. I work hard for my son to feel that same security during his rough times in life.

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Person with Autism vs Autistic

Lately, I’ve the noticed there’s been some discrepancy on how to refer to someone with autism spectrum disorder. Some refuse to use “autistic” when talking about or to someone with autism. I used to be one of those people. I believed that using “autistic” was descriptive AND definitive. I considered it to be an adjective. I backed my logic by comparing it to someone with cancer. I thought one wouldn’t refer to a person battling cancer as a “cancerous person” but that’s comparing apples to oranges. To be clear, I was never offended when a person used “autistic” but I preferred not to.

Recently, I’ve read about how many self-advocates would rather be called autistic than a “person with autism” or “on the autism spectrum”. Soon after, I began talking to various adults on the spectrum. I learned that many referenced themselves as autistic without any hesitation but others preferred to be a “person with autism”. Those who didn’t like being called “autistic” was because they felt it referred to being disabled. They don’t believe autism is a disability but rather different.

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Those who preferred being called “autistic” was mostly in part to feeling that their diagnosis didn’t define them. Yet, they recognized it is a part of them. It’s no different than me saying I’m an African American woman. African American describes my race, ethnicity, and culture. Being a woman describes my gender. My son refers to himself as “having autism” and he doesn’t feel any shame about it. He knows he’s different but he doesn’t want people to treat him differently because he has autism. He wants to recognized for the person he is.

In conclusion, using “autistic” or “person with autism” are both acceptable. It’s a matter of preference. If in doubt, it is perfectly okay to ask. Both DESCRIBES the person, but neither DEFINES them.