Autism, Christmas And Putting Things Into Perspective

Normally I hate this time of year. The Christmas mail generally brings with it cards from old friends and acquaintances. Whilst I love to hear from them I often feel envious and cheated for they make me think if what might have been if only my son hadn't developed autism.

I know it's wrong but I'm only human.

However, this year I seem to have got things into perspective. Instead of yearning for what I may have missed, I appreciate what I have.

The Season of Good Will didn't start too well. I took my son on a train journey. He loved it. The train was full of Christmas shoppers and commuters so we were unable to sit together. However, I managed to get a seat directly behind him and watched as he sat staring out of the window, a finger in one ear, reciting story lines memorised from his vast array of videos.

The lady next to him, engrossed in her paperback novel appeared not to notice, but a young child, three years old apparently, did. With the innocence of youth she asked her mother and grandmother:

"Why was he was talking to himself?"
"Why did he have his finger in his ear?"
"Why did he look out of the window all the time?"

In the quietness of the crowded carriage her persistent little voice carried and her carers were visibly embarrassed. They tried, as best they could to divert her questions but were fighting a losing battle. I noticed soon many people were glancing at my son and contemplating his somewhat unusual behaviour.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked at the little girl for it brought back memories of happier times. I remembered how my son used to be such a chatterbox; friendly, sociable and inquisitive. Then came autism and his world and that of all around him changed forever.

Life's unfair.

A few days after that train journey my son's school were performing their Christingle Service in the local cathedral. It is a beautiful, serene building over 1000 years old. The architecture and decorations are quite magnificent.

Set in a flat landscape the huge cathedral can be viewed from miles and is known as The Ship Of The Fens. It gives people hope. Just thinking about its construction makes you realise no task is too great and when you go inside there is an amazing atmosphere.

My son attends a school for children with special needs. Each child is different and provides a varying degree of worry and anxiety for his or her parents. Some children have both physical and medical disabilities, others mental or behavioural problems. Some are confined to a wheel chair, whilst others just wander, unable to stay still. However, every single child is cherished and valued for who they are, and their achievements, no matter how small, are acknowledged.

As I sat in the tranquil Lady Chapel listening to the carols and recitations by the children, I watched my son perform Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Dressed in his antlers, scarf and red mittens, he was so confident and happy, it made me realise how lucky I really am.

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