Perhaps through some miracle, my son David may turn out to be like Alfred Nobel, Pablo Picasso, or Hikari, but it is extremely unlikely. Those people touched the lives of multitudes through their works. David touches the lives of only a few, but the lives that he does touch are greatly enriched by his presence.
His smile is his greatest work of art. He has uttered only a very few words, but not one of those words has ever been cruel or dishonest. Each word has been precious to us. David knows how to love others and accepts the love of others with grace and dignity. His family, his friends at school, his teachers, and everyone else who know him have learned something from him, and see the world a little differently because he has touched their lives. He finds joy in the world, and he brings joy to it. His presence transforms us in wonderful ways.
He is not likely to turn out to be a great scientist, musician, or artist whose name will be remembered throughout the ages, but neither will I. Neither will the vast majority of the people on this planet, and yet their lives have meaning. My hope is not about who he might become; I simply hope I will never lose the ability to see the wonder of the person he already is. He has the courage to live in the present, and, through him, I am learning to live there, too.
He teaches me to accept him for who he is, to accept and embrace his disabilities along with every other part of him. Having learned that lesson, perhaps I can learn to accept myself the way I am and everyone else just the way they are as well.
The hope that I hold for my child is that he can live his life among people who respect and cherish him as he is, and that he can touch the lives of those people. I think that is more than enough for any of us. David teaches me something about being human, and as I begin to learn it, I am becoming more human.
My relationship with David is not unique. Parents and thousands of others whose lives are touched by people with severe disabilities tell us about their own transformations. Sometimes they talk about little things; sometimes the effects that they describe are huge, but they all see the world differently and, in some way, they draw on a new strength. Somehow they come to a new place in their lives, an unexpected place, and discover that they like where they find themselves.
* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.