Jackson and NathanBlood gushed from my 18 month-old’s nose after he kissed the pavement outside in the backyard. While I tried my best to curb the tide and determine whether stitches were in order, Jackson stepped inside after me and did something I had never seen him do before: He stepped closer and leaned in to look at his wailing brother. A puzzled look flashed momentarily, then…what was that??? Concern? Maybe even COMPASSION? His bottom lip quivered before his eyes screwed shut tightly, and he burst into tears.

Unfortunately, but also fortunately, I’ve had several opportunities to see this reaction to his brother’s injuries lately. He is definitely showing concern when his baby brother gets hurt, even reaching out to touch him, to comfort him. For a kid who defines classic autism descriptors like, “Incapable of seeing another’s perspective,” or “Unable to feel empathy for another” this show of emotion on behalf of his brother’s pain is epic. This is the other awareness that has seemed to be lost on Jackson most of the time. In the past, he might have left the room, complained in annoyance at the loud crying, or even LOL-ed. If I am able to multitask, I usually try to vocalize and encourage empathy (take Jack’s hand and touch his brother, explain that his brother hurts, model, “Are you okay?” and hugs). I was beginning to think it was all for nothing, but we just had an “Eureka!” Moment I will cherish.

I’ve read so many “takes” on Autism, especially the adamant arguments for and against Autism being a blessing, just part of who a person is, or a disorder to be fought. I absolutely think Jackson is a tremendous blessing in our lives and will continue to be whether he remains as he is or is completely healed. Obviously I have a hard time accepting that Autism defines Jackson, that it is just a part of who he is, who God designed him to be. We saw him develop as a typical kid for the first two years of his life, and then he withdrew, lost language, and lost skills. That was hard to swallow…I saw Jackson…and then I couldn’t see him so well past that glassy-eyed stare that preferred the tree tops outside our window to his mommy’s face.

I think it was the loss of relationship, the ability to connect, to know his mind, to really know him that hurt the most. I believe we were designed for relationship, so anything that attacks relational abilities seems to be an attack on Jackson’s design, and not what God intended for him or for our family.

It’s true, Jackson is primarily a happy little guy, and for this I am constantly thankful, but there are too many times when the words he wants desert him, inflicting huge frustration and isolation. The joy of being with friends and family is overshadowed by the overwhelming stimuli or too many peers invading his space. His inability to control emotions, transition, or let go of obsessions many times cannot be overcome with hugs, games, and cuddles. In these daily occurences, Jackson’s autism is anything BUT a blessing.

Yeah, yeah, I know the longer we go, the harder it is to know…what is his autism, and what is Jackson? Are they so entangled? Are they one and the same? I know his Autism has shaped him as well as us, no question. He’s a fierce overcomer, and so are we. We fight to know more, to see more little pieces of our boy. Jackson is emerging s-l-o-w-l-y, but still, he’s making a comeback. Discovering each new tiny piece is truly like, “Oh yeah! There you are! Welcome back, Buddy!” I love those moments. I live for those moments.

So this recent show of compassion is one of those pieces that seems so small, but in my eyes is a huge advancement in Jackson’s cognitive, social, and spiritual growth and our connection with him. To empathize. To see pain in someone else. To be touched by how someone else feels and respond appropriately. So now when lips meet pavement, I have two boys to console, but I am SOI (Smiling On the Inside).

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One Response to “We Were Made for Relationship”

  1. Joseph says:

    This is awesome! I agree – cherish every step of progress and thank God in every step of the way. What a wonderful article. God continue to pour out His grace upon you, Jason and Sara. I pray that you will never stop receiving confirmation that you all are NEVER ALONE.


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