I don’t know exactly when the perception of Noah’s disability rose up to me like smoke from a pyre. It is said that mothers are possessed of a sixth sense, a preternatural ability to determine when their children are in danger. If I were anyone else, I might write my awareness off to this convenient little maxim, but in truth, I believe it was God nudging me with a quiet, determined hand.
I remember first uttering the words “I think Noah might be autistic” when he was eighteen months old, but his late walking, late talking, his repetitive flapping, his difficulty in looking me in the face all gave it away far earlier than that. His tantrums were earth shattering. His sensory difficulties were stymying. We begged off on birthday parties or took him to another room because the strains of “Happy Birthday to You” set him to fits of screaming. But he was affable, sociable, and an easy laugher. He liked people. And more than that, he utterly lacked stranger anxiety (which, though delightful at the time, has since been revealed to us as a potential indicator for autism).
Not surprisingly, I was called alarmist. A lot. And though I knew little of “normal” developmental behavior – Noah was our first child, and we were the first among our friends to have children – something, Someone, told me to persist.
Big decision + major consequences + opposition = stomach cramps. My default is the distrust of my own decisions. I can make a federal case of the choice of movie, outfit or ice cream flavor (“But what if I pick the praline and the chocolate is better, and then I’ve wasted 500 calories on WHAT?!”). But God is changing my personal mistrust through Noah – who, ironically or not – trusts everyone.
We’re told to be “wise as serpents and gentle as doves” (Matthew 10:16). We’re also told that if we desire wisdom, we have only to ask our Father for it, and it will be freely given (James 1:5). So, though I was matched with criticism in the early stages of this journey, I persisted in the difficult task of reaching a diagnosis because the Lord gave me what I prayed for: discernment. Our neurologist has applauded our efforts toward early intervention saying that most high-functioning children on the spectrum aren’t diagnosed until they are seven or eight. Noah was five.
I had to resist the urge to make a few “I told you so!” calls, what with it flying in the face of that “gentle as doves” part, and all.
In trusting God, I have also learned to trust myself. I have learned to listen to His voice within me, quiet though it may be, and appreciate the mother radar that He’s tuned to just the right frequency.