Early on in our son’s life, we knew he was going to be special. God seemed to have His hand upon him and we speculated what great thing he might do in his life. I think Daddy was hoping he might be a great preacher one day. So, when he lost his verbal skills and the word autism began to fly around in the air, it felt like a knife. Was this really the plan God had for our son? What if he never spoke again? What kind of life was our son going to have if he couldn’t even communicate? Why would God do this? How would people ever know how amazing our son was if they couldn’t even talk to him? It never occurred to me at the time, that my son could have a gift so powerful that nothing, not even autism, could stand in the way….. that sometimes there is something so special deep within the soul that speaks louder than words……
As long as I can remember, he has loved music. Even back when he was still a toddler and had lost his ability to speak, somehow he was able to sing. The words just came out easier that way. I have cherished that sweet little voice through the years. It has been God’s gift to me even when it was the only time I heard my son’s voice.
It is often used by each of his therapists to get his attention when he otherwise seems lost in a world far away. Whenever someone starts singing, he connects. You can see it in his eyes…. The music reaches him in a place that is sometimes quite hard to get to. The therapists learned to use this to their advantage. I still remember when his speech therapist tried to sing with him those cute little toddler type songs. He just looked at her and began to sing “Jesus loves me.” He didn’t want to sing anything else. She looked at me with pleading eyes and asked “isn’t there any other song he will sing?”
“Yes, but that is his favorite.”
She didn’t know the words, but she tried as best she could to sing it with him. It seemed unimaginable to me that this highly educated young woman with two children of her own did not know the words to such a simple song. She has since learned the song, thanks to my son continuing to ask her to sing it….. and so a life is touched.
It came up again when he started ABA. The first therapist they sent to us was a brilliant man and very good at working with kids with autism. His lifestyle however, by his own admission, was one far different than mine. He was very upfront about discussing his time spent partying with friends. I think he was a bit unsure how to handle coming into the home of a pastor week after week, even though I never discussed God with him, nor did my husband. We simply talked about my son and how best to help him. We didn’t need to discuss God with him, our son took care of that.
ABA works on a principle of rewarding the behavior you want to increase. His rewards at that point were usually time spent watching a movie or singing a song. His song choice? You guessed it…. Jesus loves me. The first time his ABA therapist was asked to sing that song, he rolled his eyes, but it is hard to turn down a mostly non verbal little boy’s request when he was working so hard, and so he sang it with him. The therapist knew the words perfectly. Somewhere back in his past, someone must have taught him something about this God that he know wanted nothing to do with and our little boy was determined to reintroduce him. Even his movies choices seemed to be conveying a message. At the time he couldn’t verbally ask for a movie, he did so with picture cards. His preferred choices at the time, just happened to be Facing the Giants and Flywheel, both movies with a very strong spiritual message, and so, the two of them would sit and watch clips from the movie together. That particular man was only with us for a few months. He moved out of state and I later heard he was going through a very difficult time. He told me before he left that although he had never felt any need for God in his life, he had a great respect for me and my family and the way we lived….. and so a life is touched.
Our son got a new ABA therapist and sure enough, she learned early on to sing his favorite song too. The first time she heard him sing it, she actually got tears in her eyes and said it had been years since she had heard that song. She still sings it with him every time he asks. She also watches Christian YouTube videos that he picks out….. and so a life is touched.
His love of music has continued to grow. So much so that we started him in music therapy a few months ago. He attends music therapy at a private ABA school. He just started learning to play piano and I couldn’t help but smile today when his music therapist told me what song he wanted to learn to play….. Jesus loves me…… My son may never preach from a pulpit like his daddy (although I will never stop praying for a miracle), but maybe…. just maybe, one doesn’t need a pulpit, or even verbal skills, to preach a sermon.