My 16-year old son is a “highly functioning Asperger’s” child. That is what they have labeled him. I must admit I have been in the process of coming to terms with this syndrome for the past four years since he was diagnosed with it.
I love him dearly but have noticed when we go out in public I always cringe whenever he says anything because I never know what he is going to say. I cringe for my sake as well as his. I feel for him if he says something he means to be funny but is actually inappropriate. It is difficult to admit this. Maybe you have to have a child with special needs to understand what this is like.
Well this trip was no different. I went into it with a sort of fear and dread that he wasn’t going to fit in, that he was going to embarrass himself, (and selfishly me), that no one would want to sit with him at meal times or hang out with him. But as the week went on and we all gained respect for each other, I felt God telling me that instead of being nervous about anything he was going to say or do, to embrace his uniqueness and originality. Accept him as God made him. This was such a burden lifted from me when I came to realize this. I wasn’t even aware of how much that burden had been weighing on me until it had been lifted. I praise God that I had this experience. I don’t know that I would have come to this point if it had not been for this trip.
Upon our return home, my 16-year old son, Jake, wrote the following as a way of processing his experience in Haiti. “We are not defined by our borders, our national anthems, languages, flags or skin color. We are defined by living under one big blue planet under God. We are not Americans, we are humans. They are not Haitians, they are humans. When we learn this we will not be defined by our alien languages, but the language of love.”
I encourage any parent with a special needs child that if at all possible, to take a trip like this. It really does make a difference in your relationship as well as your perspective. Trust that God will prepare the way.
Diane Turner Parker
410 Bridge Haiti Trip Participant