I hadn’t planned on writing a post today, but I just finished reading a book and wanted to share it with you. In Autism & Alleluias, author Kathleen Deyer Bolduc gives us a glimpse into life with Joel, her son. Joel, like so many of the children who touch my life and yours, is diagnosed with autism.
Each chapter tells a story or experience, such as Joel’s touching visit with his grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease (a chapter that especially affected me) and his special relationships with friends and caregivers. But of course, as we all know, autism often makes life very difficult. In addition to the good, Kathy candidly writes about the bad and the ugly, including Joel’s meltdowns, struggles with finding the right medication, and the questions about Joel’s future as an adult.
Kathy’s faith led her to the moments of clarity and beauty she details in her book. Even in the most seemingly hopeless situations, she discovers the “alleluias” in them. Sometimes they are buried or don’t appear until days or weeks later, but they are there. One of my favorites was Kathy’s struggle with the fact that her son was being trained as a trash collector during high school. As she meditated on this reality, the words trash man for heaven came to mind. This phrase helped her accept the fact that Joel was humbly and obediently making the world around him a better place, and likewise, let her fully accept and be thankful for his job. (Fun fact: the college music therapy student Joel was working with at the time wrote a little ditty about this job, which became one of his favorite songs).
Kathy’s story is deeply rooted in her Presbyterian faith, but her message – the importance of valuing, honoring, and enjoying the unexpected gifts of children with special needs – is universal. I laughed, cried and related (as someone who works with children who have autism on a daily basis) while reading.
And in the spirit of National Autism Awareness Month, I would love to pass this book on to a Listen & Learn reader. The first person to email me (be sure to include your full name and mailing address, as well as your connection to autism) will receive my copy in the mail this week. For those of you who would like your own copy, you can purchase the book here.