David and Mercedes Rizzo consider ways they have found hope amid the challenges of parenting a child with special needs.
It’s spring! There’s a sense of renewal in the air. The sun shines bright, and the temperature is warmer. In many ways this season is a season of hope. Hope is important. Hope is huge.
Recently we were out in the community with our daughter Danielle. She is 24 years old, nonverbal, and has autism. Danielle began using her iPad to communicate about things she was seeing. A woman with a young child came over and asked if Danielle’s iPad had software to help her speak. She said her child was nonverbal and had been recently diagnosed on the autism spectrum. We got into a brief conversation and Danielle began commenting on her iPad in context to our conversation. As we were leaving the woman said:
“You have given me so much hope.”
Hearing her say this made us feel good. We began thinking about what the word "hope" means and why people want it. Hope can be defined as trusting in and to expect something beneficial in the future. The Holy Spirit gives us the grace to hope. Hope brings us peace and contentment. The absence of hope can cause despair. Hope gives us the space to work through our doubts and our fears. This brings us to a reliance on God, a knowledge that He is in charge, and a trust that His will is unfolding as it should.
There are several people in the Bible who exemplify the virtue of Hope. Noah comes to mind. He had hope that God would deliver him and his family, as well as the animals onboard. This hope was not in vain. When the ark ran aground and the flood waters receded, God provided a rainbow as a sign of Hope for Noah.
We personally have seen many examples of hope while raising an individual with special needs. The story above is just one example. Most parents of special-needs children have at one point questioned God as to why their child faces such struggles. No human being knows the answer to that question, but God, the author of all life, knows the answer.
We might get glimpses of that answer in the open-hearted reactions of others to our children. We know that Danielle has had a profound effect on many people including the woman that we met. We have learned to trust that Danielle’s autism and her inability to speak are part of God’s plan. When people meet her and are affected by her that is part of God’s plan too. We believe that Danielle meeting this woman was part of God’s plan. As we were leaving, we could not help but to remember the words often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words when necessary.”
Our Danielle does that every day.
Copyright 2023 David and Mercedes Rizzo
Images: copyright 2023 David and Mercedes Rizzo, all rights reserved.
About the Author
David and Mercedes write and speak from a faith perspective as parents of a child with autism. They are available to speak, and have appeared on radio and other media. Visit DavidAndMercedesRizzo.com to learn more. Follow them on Facebook at Autism With The Rizzos. Authors of Praying For Your Special Needs Child, (Word Among Us Press) and Spiritually Able and The Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit (Loyola Press).