My son Aidan likes to hike.
When he gets out on the trail, he just goes. He never worries about where or how long or what it’s going to be like. He just sees the trail and he goes.
My other boys can’t keep up with him. He doesn’t run. He doesn’t even walk fast. He starts right off. And he never stops.
He never complains. He just walks until the walking is done.
When he gets too far ahead of his brothers, he stops for a moment, looks at me and asks, “Friends?”
His mouth says the word. But his eyes ask the question. Are his brothers ok? Can I go make sure they’re not too far behind?
Aidans eyes do the talking for him most of the time.
He wasn’t three before the light started to flicker on and off in him. By his third birthday, it had gone dark. No talking. No connection.
He was gone.
For months, even years, he was full of fear. He’d broken connection with the world outside of himself. As he slowly came back to us, he collided with that world head on. It was terrifying for him. Daily outbursts. Constantly escaping, trying to get away.
Every experience was something that didn’t make any sense to him. He didn’t know what things meant. Or where we were going. Or what anyone was telling him. He couldn’t see the end of anything he started.
He was terrified.
But everyday, he picked himself up and did it again. He had no choice but to find the courage to wander out into a foreign and terrifying world. And everyday, he got a little braver. And everyday, the world made a little more sense to him.
He’s just a boy.
But he’s stared down a thousand lifetimes of fear by now. And he just keeps walking.
If there’s one thing my journey of parenting an autistic child has taught me, it’s that courage comes in all shapes and sizes. And I’ve never seen anything like what these amazing children go through just to fight for the chance to do it again the next day.
They’re lions. Every one of them.
If you know someone on that journey, or if you’re on it yourself, it’s good to find others that are too.
That’s why my wife Annette and I started Care For Us. Check us out at www.care4us.org. All services are free. All connections are an honor.