David and Mercedes Rizzo, parents of a young adult with autism, share their thoughts as World Autism Day, April 2, approaches.
Twenty years ago, we were only vaguely familiar with the term autism spectrum disorder. Since then, we have become much more knowledgeable about the diagnosis. This is not something that we ever expected or planned for. It was, however, part of God’s plan. Around this time of year, we hear the term autism more frequently. This is in part because April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. It is hoped that an increase in awareness will lead to improved quality of life for those who have autism and their families.
When our daughter Danielle was three years of age, she was unable to speak. She engaged in challenging behaviors. So we began the process of early intervention. We learned that autism is a developmental condition, a spectrum disorder that various in severity. Symptoms include difficulty in social interaction, communication, an extremely narrow range of interest, and repetitive behaviors.
During the early intervention process and the visits to many specialists, we never believed that we would be told that our daughter had a lifelong and life-altering condition like autism. When we started our autism journey, our hope was for a cure for our daughter. We turned to prayer but we wanted the prayer answered how we thought it should be answered. We prayed that the autism diagnosis would be put in our back pocket. We wanted the struggle to be short, something we could forget and never worry about again.
This was our thinking; it was not God’s. We wanted God to fix everything and to fix it immediately! Of course, looking back now this was understandable. It took a while for us to understand that our daughter’s autism diagnosis would be a long unfolding of God’s grace. Ultimately, we learned that we were the parents of Danielle, the beautiful child with autism, the child God had given us. In time we have learned to embrace that. This was not an easy process but we had no choice but to move through it and trust God.
If we can offer any advice to other parents whose children have autism, it would be to remember that where you are now is not where you will end up in one year, five years or ten years from now. Milestones will be met; progress will be made and you will experience better days. You will have the peace and understanding you long for.
Copyright 2022 David and Mercedes Rizzo
Images copyright 2022 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).