Hi, I'm Sara. When my son was two, he went into a fog called Autism. He is seven now, and my family is on a mission to bring him back. Together, we are Finding Jackson.


Jack on the run againI’ve been avoiding writing this for over a month, because it is about one of my most paralyzing fears: Losing Jackson. Just the other day, I forced myself to close the computer after catching the headline about the boy with autism whose body was found on the beach. I cannot fathom, and I do not wish to imagine.

Imagination is not required since my boy is set on breaking out and running again. He has been perfectly content to flap around the yard and beat a muddy path through the middle of the grass by pushing his little brother’s ride-on truck back and forth, but the blissful enjoyment (for him and me) can’t last forever, I guess. He peers through the fence, and sees…what? The neighbors’ playhouse? Their open back door? A low, free-swinging gate? A longing grows day after day until finally, he HAS to get out. HAS to run. He sneaks behind the shed, kicks out a board, and is gone.

Those seconds of panic when I realize he’s kicked out a board and escaped through the privacy fence into the neighbors’ yard, and I can’t fit through…I rush to the street looking four ways at the corner and only seeing a man walking his dog a few blocks down. Maybe he ducked into the neighbors’ house to explore?

As I careen around the corner to barge through their front door and hopefully retrieve my escapee, a lady a few houses down the busy street steps out of her car and asks, “You looking for a little boy, red shorts?” “YES!” “Way past that man walking his dog.” What?!? The tiny figure four eternally long blocks down? How the heck did he get so far so fast? I’m already shouting “Jack!” and clomping down the sidewalk in horrible garden shoes wishing I had my running shoes on, and wondering if he’s suddenly turned into Dash from the Incredibles, and if he’ll stay on the side walk or jump out to greet a passing car, and if he’ll look before he crosses that next intersection….After shouting “Jack, stop!” repeatedly, I realize that the red shorts are actually running back toward me. I don’t slow until he’s firmly in my arms.

“Why–? Where–? What–? You can’t just run off by yourself! That’s not safe!” Stop. Slow down. Choose your words. “What do you want?” (Wait…) “Go to Miss Janae’s house.” He was heading back to our old house, but he knows it’s not “home” anymore. It’s our dear friend’s home and the place where his favorite flapping trees live. My voice cracks as I try to speak slowly and calmly, “I–Mama can drive to Miss Janae’s house. No running to Miss Janae’s house. That’s not safe! You have to stop and get your grown up.”

So we slog back to the house in our horrible running shoes, me babbling and crying, searching for the right words, wondering how to explain, how to prevent, how to protect. Jack, hand in mine, not fighting, somehow resigned that his solo adventure is over.

So now here I am researching identification bracelets, tracking devices, fences, monitoring systems, door and window alarms, wondering why I have waited this long. Wondering how many times my son has been deterred, caught, or distracted from an escape that may not have turned out this way. I wonder if little ones like him are assigned specially trained guardian angels. I ought to request one while I’m ordering.


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).


We’re back to riding lessons again (yay, Spring!). Last fall was the first season we were able to go every week instead of only once or twice a month, thanks to the kindness of Jeannie at Wild Ones Youth Ranch. This consistency helped Jackson slide right back into it so quickly, I was a bit amazed. The helmet went on without a fight. He jumped down into the corral, stomped up the 3 steps of the mounting block, swung his leg up (flashing everyone in sight with a ghastly plumber-esque view), and sauntered off on faithful Sahali’s back like a professional cowboy. The ranch hands on either side of him reminded him to hold on to the pommel. Before the first lap around the corral was complete, he was humming happily to the world. Continue Reading


peaceful anticipationI’ve been reminded again how much I need to journal as a processing tool as well as an invitation for God to speak. I never get started because I’m stuck on how little time I have for such a healthy endeavor. I just decided…if all I have time for is a single sentence per day. I guess that’s a start right? Here are my sentences from a few weeks ago:

Monday: I asked God to give you words that would stick around til tomorrow
Instead of fading away with the light of the sun. Continue Reading


Jackson by riverI have read several blogs since the beginning of April, and I am noticing a common thread: awareness is not enough. What our kids, our families, and we as parents are really longing for is love, support, and family that is bigger than our immediate family. A family who helps hold up our arms, who picks up the slack when we are spent, who loves our kids no matter how unloveable they are, and who offers hope and physical help instead of heart-felt platitudes. Continue Reading

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 11 other subscribers