Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Hope





Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:23 (NIV)


            Lost: Twelve boys, one coach.
One long, arduous search to find them alive. Rear Adm Arpakorn Yuukongkaew told reporters, “There was only a tiny bit of hope, but that’s all we had to work with.”[i]
Hope; it’s the motivating force that keeps us pressing onward. Without hope, we lose the will to fight, to keep searching, to do whatever it takes to reach our goals. Hope was the compelling force that drove those rescue workers to keep searching, despite the dangers, difficulties, and risks. Hope was the defining factor between life and death.
            Unfortunately, there are times when hope disappoints. Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder understand this all too well. Goals not met, days that turn out to be one struggle after another, news that makes us wonder why we keep holding on to hope.
            God urges us to hold on to the hope we have in Jesus, with unswerving faith. Because we’re doing all the right things? Because we need a crutch? No! Because of God’s character. He is faithful and when he makes a promise, He never fails to deliver.
Biblical hope dares to look for the rainbow before the storm has ended. Hope dares to sing songs of victory even while the battle still rages. Hope dares to say, "It is well," even when it seems all is lost. Hope waits patiently through the darkest night, confident dawn will eventually come.
Hope does not quit but presses on, even through the darkest places, confident victory is waiting up ahead.

           




[i] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-44797035

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The battle is not yours




This is what the LORD says;Do not be afraid! 

Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army,

for the battle is not yours, but God’s.

2 Chronicles 20:15 (NLT)



            Jehoshaphat faced an alarming adversary; the combined armies from Moab, Ammon and some of the Meunim had declared war on Judah. 2 Chronicles 3:20 tells us he was downright terrified. But, instead of sharpening swords, readying troops, and consulting his best strategists, Jehoshaphat ran to the Lord. Not only did he pray for guidance, he also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting and praying for the LORD’s help.
            As a result of Jehoshaphat’s faith and reliance on the LORD, Judah was rewarded by God’s mighty act of deliverance. God assured Jehoshaphat He was in control; “The battle is not yours, but God’s.”
I love those words: The battle is not yours, but God’s. In fact, I’ve written them in capital letters on an index card and posted them on the bathroom mirror where I can be reminded of God’s sovereignty before I tackle each new day. To be honest, autism can be a formidable opponent. It’s a constant battle against anxiety, overstimulation, sensory overload, and situations which can trigger meltdowns.
How often I need to be reminded that God is on my side and He is in control! I know it, theoretically, yet somehow, when my back is up against a wall, I find myself wondering if God really cares about my personal struggles, my tears, and my stress-filled days.
There’s a pair of slippers next to my bed which I’m tempted to slip on every morning; one is doubt, the other is fear. The thing is, instead of helping me walk, they hinder my progress. They are clumsy and cumbersome, impeding my ability to walk by faith.
            “Why haven’t you tossed them out?” you ask. Truth is, I’ve thrown them out several times, but they just seem to creep back in when I let my guard down. Just give them time and they’ll start feeling more comfortable, a voice whispers in my ear. But God says the opposite; He tells me not to heed that voice and trust Him wholly.
Faith is not a one-time deal. Faith is a daily surrender, a moment-by-moment dying to self as we learn to cast our cares upon the Lord, trusting Him to fight our battles according to His plan and perfect timing.
            I love the way God honored Jehoshaphat’s faith. Take a look at verse 17; “You will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the LORD’s victory He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the LORD is with you!”
            Do you know Jesus as your Savior? If so, then He is on your side, and He will fight for you. Stand still and watch the LORD’s victory.


            

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

5 TIPS FOR A SAFE AND SENSORY-FRIENDLY 4TH OF JULY






Whether you are going out or watching from the comfort of your own home, Independence Day can be very stressful for you and your child, especially if he or she is on the autism spectrum. Sensory issues, safety concerns and lack of preparation can often spoil what is intended to be a celebration of our nation’s freedom.
Here are several tips to provide your family with a safe and sensory-friendly 4th of July.
1.      Prepare your child by reading picture books such as The Night Before the 4th of July, by Natasha Wing or Happy Birthday, America by Mary Pope Osborne. Discuss some of the sights and sounds you might experience and how they might make you feel.
2.      Caution your child about the dangers of handling fireworks. Explain the rules you would like them to follow, establish boundaries and be mindful of what they are doing and their whereabouts at all times.
3.      Pack a bag with headphones to block out some of the noise, a blanket for cover if your child gets frightened, sunglasses if your child is sensitive to the glare, comfort items such as a weighted vest, a favorite toy or stuffed animal, snack foods, games and toys to keep them distracted as you wait for the show to begin.
4.      Plan your strategy. If you are attending a show, plan on arriving ahead of time to avoid large crowds and the possibility of being separated. Create a buddy-system so no one is alone at any time. Plan to leave a few minutes before the end to avoid the mad rush, or watch the finale from your vehicle so you can drive away before people flood the parking area.
5.      Have fun. Remember, this is a day of celebration. Enjoy the food, the fellowship, the festivities and the fireworks. Enjoying good times with family and friends is the ultimate goal.
Have a great 4th of July everyone!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Autism and Suicidal Tendencies







            This has been a difficult week, with two prominent people taking their lives. What struck me is that even their closest family members and friends didn’t realize the depth of their despair. Many people live behind masks they only remove in the seclusion of their homes or bedrooms. Thus, no one sees their deep emotional anguish.
            To believe individuals with autism do not experience strong emotional ups and downs is simply erroneous. They are as vulnerable as you and me, often to a far greater degree because they struggle to control their emotions. The tendency to fixate on a particular line of thought often affects their subsequent actions. Their silence can also be misconstrued as a sign they are doing okay, when in reality their thoughts and emotions are tearing them up inside.
            According to an article in Psychology Today, “the percentage of children with autism rated by their parents as sometimes to very often contemplating or attempting suicide was 28 times greater than that of typical children, though three times less than that of depressed non-autistic children.”[i]
            Which begs the question, what actions can parents take to counter suicidal ideation? Here are five simple measures parents can use to assess their child’s emotional state:

·         Be alert to your child’s behaviors, words, and actions. Do not trivialize any conduct that might be cause for alarm.

·         Talk to your child. Be sure to check in with your child every day. Ask about school, friends, activities, and keep a sharp ear out for words that might clue you in to their emotional state. If you notice any signs of bullying, take immediate action!

·         Find a good counselor. We took our son to several psychologists and counselors, before finally discovering a wonderful counselor who has a family member on the spectrum. Her first-hand experience with autism has proven invaluable in her ability to understand and help our son.

·         Keep your child engaged. Isolation can be detrimental to someone with negative, harmful thoughts. Encourage him/her to build friendships (autism support groups can open doors to making similar-minded friendships), be active in his/her community and/or church, and foster positive interaction with family members.

·         Remove potential harm. Keep medications and firearms under lock and key. If you feel your child might be thinking of harming himself, remove potential risks such as ropes, cords, knives, sharp objects, or anything he might use to take his life.

·         Contact your child’s physician. If you notice a change in mood or behavior, contact your child’s physician immediately. He or she can get your child the help he or she needs.

Suicide is not an issue most of us like to think about, much less address. Yet it is vital that we, as parents or family members, address this important topic. If you need help, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.



[i] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/aspergers-diary/201303/new-research-autism-and-suicide

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Home Run




Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)


            It was the last inning. The teams were tied and our team desperately needed a homerun to win the game. But the odds were stacked against us. Benjamin was up to bat. I half expected to see his teammates’ shoulders slump as he sauntered towards the batter’s box. After all he hadn’t hit a single ball yet. Even I was groaning inside. There was no way he was going to help the team score.
            To my surprise, the parents in the bleachers began to clap and cheer him on. “Come on, Benjamin, you can do it. Keep your eyes on the ball.” His teammates and coaches joined the chant. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing. Despite his poor track record, everyone was pulling for him.
With the crowd’s cheers ringing in his ears, Benjamin raised his bat over his shoulder and locked eyes on the pitcher. With a loud whack, the bat slammed the ball and sent it flying. The crowd went wild. You would have thought Babe Ruth had just scored as parents, kids, and coaches erupted in loud cheers and thunderous applause. Eyes brimming with tears, I stood with the crowd and clapped for my son who had just hit a home-run. But it was the kids, the coaches, and the parents pulling for him that gave me the greatest thrill that day.
Hebrews 12:1 reminds believers that we also have a crowd of witnesses surrounding us. We aren’t alone in this race. In the sidelines, saints are pulling for us. Saints we know from the Bible, such as Abraham, Moses, and Joshua along with loved-ones who have gone before us; mothers, fathers, siblings, spouses, children, friends.
We may not see them or hear them, but they are watching nonetheless. And in the midst of them, Jesus is cheering us on, saying, “Come on, (insert your name), you can do it. Do not grow weary or lose heart. Just keep your eyes on Me and press on.”
Who’s in your corner today? Your loving Heavenly Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit? Jacob, Joseph, Gideon, David, Samuel? Friends, family, loved ones who are now in the presence of Jesus? They are all pulling for you. So keep your head up and your eyes fixed upon Jesus. There’s a home-run just waiting for you.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Ten Autism-Friendly Summer Activities That Won’t Break the Bank



            Summer can be a very challenging time for autism families. While you and your neuro-typical kids want to get out and enjoy the sunshine, your special-needs child is more likely to cling to the quiet and safety of home.
            Many organizations and facilities have adopted autism-friendly events that enable children on the spectrum to enjoy social activities without all the surplus environmental factors (i.e.: noise, lights) that often assault their sensory issues. Use a search engine to find "autism-friendly" places your child might enjoy.
            The Autism Village App allows parents and providers to discover, add, rate, and review places which are autism-friendly in your area. You can also check autismspeaks.org for a list of autism-friendly events (listed by city, state, date and time).
            Here are ten of my favorite autism-friendly summer activities:

1.    Pool
Nothing says summer like splashing in the pool. Most indoor and outdoor pools have gradual water levels, permitting children to venture in as far as they feel comfortable.
You can contact your local pool to check for peak times in order to avoid those hours. You might even ask if the pool would consider autism-friendly times when individuals on the spectrum can swim with less crowds, reduced noise levels and dimmed lighting.


2.    Parks
Local parks can provide hours of fun for young children. Be sure to choose non-peak hours and avoid the noonday heat. Be sure to bring sunscreen, a bucket and shovel, a few toy cars or tractors, or toy dishes for sandbox play.
Many national parks and theme parks provide autism-friendly accommodations and lodgings but often have a substantial price-tag attached. Information on these parks is fairly easy to find through simple internet search.


3.    Library
Books provide a world-full of discoveries and adventures without leaving the comfort of home. Check with your local library for summer reading programs and activities. Avoid peak hours and ask if they would consider creating autism-friendly times and activities if not already established.

4.    Beach
Another great venue for children that won’t cost a lot. Most beaches are crowded in the summer, so try to aim for early-morning or evenings. Be sure to bring life jackets, sunscreen, toys for sand-play if your child is nervous about getting in the water, towels and drinks.


5.    Bowling
Discover the joys of throwing and knocking down with a night at the bowling alley. Ask for bumpers to avoid frustration with gutter balls and check for peak hours so you can schedule an outing around those times. If they don’t already have them established, ask the bowling alley they would be willing to provide autism-friendly times.


6.    Movies
Nothing says fun like watching a movie with a bucket-full of popcorn. Some AMC Theaters have sensory-friendly showing times on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month (times are listed on the website). During these times they lower the lights and the sound for kids on the spectrum.


7.    Zoo
My sons still love to go to the zoo, even though they’re teenagers. Be sure to check with your local zoo for peak hours or ask if they have sensory-friendly times. If not, ask if they would consider introducing such a program. If not, try to go as soon as the zoo opens or later in the afternoon, near closing time. Keep the visits short as children can quickly become tired or overstimulated.


8.    Chuck-E-Cheese
Most children enjoy the arcade games and the food. In order to accommodate families with children on the autism spectrum, Chuck-E-Cheese has introduced sensory-sensitive Sundays (check listings online).


9.    Science Centers
Most cities have centers where children can explore the wonders of science. Entry costs are usually pretty affordable and they offer hours of fun. Check with your local science center about autism-friendly hours or ask about peak hours so you can schedule your visit during quieter times.


10. Home
There are so many fun activities you can explore right at home. Here are just a few suggestions:
·         Play with bubbles – I’m talking about the giant bubbles you can purchase or make right at home
·         Run through the sprinkler
·         Beat the heat with fun on a Slip n Slide
·         Make your own ice-cream
·         Create a scavenger hunt
·         Make a card-file with ideas for sensory-play, along with recipes. Pull one out when your children are bored (you can find ideas and recipes online)
·         Play with various-sized and textured balls to increase your child’s ability to throw, kick and catch.
·         Go camping - right in your own back yard
·         Play board games or card games
·         Have fun with paints

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Easter's Eve





            They were in mourning. Not just for the man they loved and followed, but for all they’d given up, all the hopes and dreams they’d fostered, all the aspirations and beliefs that had changed their lives. They didn't  just lose a person, they lost their purpose. They didn't just bury their friend, they buried their future. Nothing would be the same now that Jesus was dead. 
            Most of us can’t fathom the depths of sorrow the disciples and Jesus’ loved ones experienced when Jesus died on that cross. They failed to understand how bright their future would be, precisely because of his death. They didn’t grasp the gift of grace Christ had so painfully purchased for their salvation. They had no inkling of what the morrow would bring.
            It can be heartbreaking when our own dreams are crushed and our hopes lay in tatters. We may even reach a point when we believe everything is lost. Why go on when the future appears so bleak? What motivation remains to lure us out of bed each morning? Why bother at all when the sky is so dark and tomorrow seems so dismal?
            What the disciples didn’t know, what Mary and the other women failed to understand, was that tomorrow their world, their very lives, would be altered beyond belief. Death would be conquered, eternal life would be theirs and what appeared to be the end would actually be a glorious beginning.
            Are you stuck on Easter’s Eve? Trapped between the grave and the resurrection? Do you feel like this darkness will last forever and all hope is gone? The story is not over yet. God is at work. Hold on to the hope we have in Christ.
Easter morning is just one night away.