Wednesday, January 27, 2010

He uses the weak to lead the strong

I have had pneumonia for a week, now. Maybe longer, since it was diagnosed a week ago. Aside from coughing and breathing difficulty, the most pronounced symptom is utter weakness. Weakness that makes the most basic functions gargantuan, like retrieving the mail from the mailbox or carrying a load of laundry upstairs. I thought I was going to collapse a few times,just tying my own shoes. Weakness sucks.

All of this illness makes me feel so useless. What good am I if not the cleaner, cook, caretaker, facilitator and homework taskmaster in my home? Or if I can't help out my writing critique partners or accomplish something quantitative? Weakness in our culture is generally viewed as despicable. Our heroes in fiction, movies and sports must be people in charge, movers and shakers, the mighty, the intelligent, the proud. As a culture, we place ultimate value on strength, independence and achievement.

But does God?

What does He mean when he says in I Corinthians 1:27 "But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty." Could it be that God, the most powerful force in the universe, values weakness? Could it be that when we come to the end of our own strength, that is when His grace can fill us most effectively, to make us conduits of His power?

Chris Tomlin says it this way, in his song "Your Grace is Enough"

"Great is Your love and justice God
You use the weak to lead the strong
You lead us in the song of Your salvation
And all Your people sing along

So remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise
Oh God

Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me"

I have made peace with my weakness. Of course, it is easy for me, since mine is temporary. But for our children who face challenges, weaknesses, and struggles every day, coming to terms with disability is a lifelong commitment. I am thankful to have this promise form God to comfort my son with: God's grace is enough, for he is strongest when we are weakest.

Embrace your weakness today, and be a conduit of His glory!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Related blogs and websites

The following comprise a list of helpful sites for further reading:
KellyJo Hautz Griffin
Joan Philo
Joan Celibi
Terri Mauro
the Autistic self-advocacy network
Lisa Jo Rudy

SPD foundation

Disability is Natural newsletter by Kathie Snow

Friday, January 22, 2010

Disability and the Movies

Brandon Frasier and Harrison Ford appear in the release Extraodinary Measures this weekend, about a boy with Pompe disease and his parent's struggle to find a cure. The New York Times review hailed the emotional impact and the life lessons learned in this movie. Most agree that it accurately reflects the angst that parents of children with special needs experience. Recall Lorenzo's Oil for an older version of a similar plot line. Susan Sarandon and Nick Nolte played parnets who researched for a cure for their son's rare and deadly disorder. Do you feel that these movies are helpful to raise awareness of the plight of parents with disabled children?

Sherlock Holmes has mixed reviews from movie-goers. Most rave about Jude Law's performance as Watson, but many are put off by the characterization of Holmes by Robert Downey, Jr. as flat, non-engaging, austere, and detatched. These qualities are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's trademark of Holmes, and have led some to believe that Holmes personifies an adult with Asperger's Syndrome. In a writer's coffee clatch recently, several gals had decried the character as lacking in qualities that garner audience sympathy. Is this how the general public views suffers of Asperger's? I found it interesting that once I shared that tidbit about the possibility of his behavior owing to disability, many exppressed more sympathy for Holmes.

Bruce Willis starred in one of my personal favorite movies depicting a child with autism, which came out in 2006. Mercury Rising centers around a boy who memorizes a series of sounds from a phone code and accidentally taps into a top-secret operation headed by Alec Baldwin, who ruthlessly seeks out this vulnerable child to stop the breech. I found the young actor's portrayal of an autistic savant one of the most interesting in film.

A title worth watching, Rain Man is another sympathetic and true-to-the-mark portrayal of autism by Dustin Hoffman. An adult savant, Raymond Babbitt has a gift with numbers, and his wheeling and dealing brother charlie, played by tom Cruise, takes him to Vegas to count cards. In a particularly poignant scene, Raymond learns to dance with his brother, and momentarily overcomes his aversion to touch.

What are your favorite or least favorite depictions of disability on the movies?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Isaiah 54:13

"And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children."

Why does this verse speak to me as I attempt to raise my son with Aspergers Syndrome?

For me, this promise brings me peace to know that God has the peace of my children in mind. Let's face it; raising children with disabilities and special needs is stressful. Will my son be able to handle deviations from his routine without a screaming meltdown if I have to run out for milk? Or if something even more serious happens, like the death of a parent, how will he cope? Raising a child with special needs is often heartbreaking. Overcoming one obstacle can take months or years, only for another to surface. Victory over social challenges in my son's case lead to trouble in school for too much socializing, for example. But God promises that our children will have peace. Great peace, actually. That is a promise that I find greatly comforting and relevant. One of God's names is Jehovah Shalom, the Lord our peace. He IS our peace when circumstances blaze like wildfire. If we cultivate that relationship of faith in God with our children, we give them a connection with the One who promises to be their peace farther than our parental, earthly influence can reach.

But the first part really grabs me. "All your children will be taught of the Lord."

I have a son for whom academics, socializing, music, and just about everything came easy. He was a laid back kid, always smiling. I didn't have the worries for his future that I do for son #2. Questions plague me for his future.

Will he be able to grasp the subtle nuance of interaction among a competitive office or work environment? Can I impart the skills he needs to prepare him for the real world? How many hours will it take tonight for my son to "get" the math homework? I can grow a complex faster than kudzu when the burden falls on my shoulders. How can any of us rise to the gargantuan task of teaching and preparing for every possibility? Kids with Aspergers are pretty concrete. If you say ABCD, you had better not change it to DABC. They don't handle the unknown very well without thorough preparation, such as social stories. (we'll discuss Caroline Grey's Social stories on an upcoming post).

This is where that promise swoops in like a caped superhero. God will teach our children. He designed their minds and bodies, and he holds the manufacturer's manual. He knows how they learn. If we pray, He can give us strategies. But even better, He can orchestrate the right circumstances, people, places and impressions to impart the needful information. Thank God for an infinite God!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Help a Falsely Accused Disabled Boy

Zakh Price is eleven years old and has been charged with felony assault. If this isn't shocking in this day and age, consider the fact that his school administered an illegal restraint on him. For what you ask? He refrained from harming a person, but he damaged school property. Still not jolted? Zakh has autism.

To give some perspective, my son for example is eleven, and has the highest functioning form of autism, Asperger's Synrome. He is very bright and has a tender heart, but there are times when his anxiety becomes so severe that he reacts in a physical way. Flight or fight mechanism. Zakh Price was not given the option of flight, so he chose fight. He harmed no one. He is to be commended.

His school district superintendent and principal at Fort Smith Public Schools have filed charges against him for felony assault. The purveyors of knowledge and enlightenment, instead of re-examining their policies and updating his IEP to include a behavior assessment, are making this a criminal matter. They are reacting to this child's anxiety with the equivalent of throwing him into a modern day snake pit. Outraged yet?

You can speak up for this child, who has no voice. You can email the principal and the school district and respectfully but emphatically ask them to drop the charges and update his IEP and re-educate their staff.

Here is a link with the info: