On the outside a pre-teen boy can look quite dreamy, handsome, and with a girl doing everything to get his attention. Unfortunately, this may be the furthest thing from his mind because flirting back is not how this child thinks – he is a child with autism. (Due to him being diagnosed as having mild autism, most people at first glance cannot see that there is anything wrong.)
Instead, entering the very large halls of middle school knowing he looks at the world so differently brings forth many days of extra anxiety. He just doesn’t seem to quite fit in like the other boys his age. He sees the “looks” the cool kids give him at lunch and hears the whispers like, “Look at him he is weird, he is odd, he is such a freak”; therefore, making it even easier to avoid eye contact as he hears them laughing in the distance as he goes by. Inside this young boy, with hurt feelings, cannot completely understand why he isn’t accepted by his peers. He just remembers hearing in his head at a young age, “this child has autism” which makes what seems so unclear – a little clearer because he is labeled “different” among his peers.
“If only people wouldn’t judge me, not wanting to know me at all. Instead wouldn’t it be nice to be accepted and then accept that we are made from different molds which should make us want to stand proud and tall,” he says to himself as he walks to his new school bus.
As this young boy makes his way onto the new school bus to head home, he finds himself sitting by another pre-teen boy he doesn’t even know. Out of the blue, as the boys sit on the school bus, side by side, the young boy with autism says to the other boy, “There is one thing I want you to know about me if you don’t know anything else.” The boy sitting next to him seems a little surprised and asks, “Ok, and what might that be?” The young boy with autism says, “I have a name.” The other boy waits to see if there is more and says, “Is that it?” The boy with autism says, “Yes, I have a name. And my name is Ethan. My name is not stupid, weirdo, freak, or loser, it is simply Ethan and that is what I like to be called.” As he finds the courage to look into the other boy’s eyes because he wants to see how he will react, he is very surprised to see tears well up in the other boy’s eyes so he asks, “May I ask you what your name is too?” The young boy says, “My name is Nathan.” Ethan places his hand out to shake Nathan’s hand and Nathan graciously returns his hand to make a firm handshake between the two boys.
Suddenly, a tear falls from Nathan’s eye because he cannot hold it in any longer. Ethan feels uncomfortable not knowing what to say, but remembers the lessons his mother taught him about being compassionate to one another. Ephesians 4:32 He musters up the courage and asks, “Nathan is there anything wrong?”
Nathan replies, “I had a twin brother who died in a car accident and he was made fun of because he had mild autism and well, you just remind me of him.” Ethan got so excited and announced, “Well, guess what Nathan? I am just like your brother because I have autism too.” Nathan asked as more tears came, “You do?” Ethan shook his head “yes” as he smiled from ear to ear. In those moments, having autism was the greatest gift he could have been given because a friendship developed between Ethan and Nathan that lasted many years.
Remember, our heavenly Father who loves his children so much never makes mistakes when he makes you and me. We hurt Him when we complain because we are not made like someone else. Great news: We are made in the image of Christ and I cannot think of a more perfect way to be made.
Genesis 1:27 “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”