Survivors and overcomers come from all walks of life, not just those who have served our country in the armed forces. We are often completely unaware that the person sitting next to us on the bus, or across from us in a restaurant, or walking beside us on the street is living in his or her own private world of hell. We do not know they are hoping for someone to see them, see their pain, see their struggle and to say, “I see you, and I care. I am going to lock arms with you and help you to stand strong, to persevere, to never quit.”
Such is the life of a person with autism. For a person with autism, their life is often complicated in ways we cannot even begin to understand. Naoki Higashida, a young Japanese man, now 20 years old, learned to escape the private hell of his mind and to communicate with the outside world, and in doing so, wrote a book, “The Reason I Jump.” His book answers more than fifty questions that he has overheard people ask about being autistic. He says, “An autistic child doesn’t want to be left on his own. But being with other people is exhausting because of the communication problems, so it leaves us feeling alone and anxious.”
The spectrum of autism-related disorders is vast, but the struggle for many is similar. It’s not just the child who struggles and fights to accomplish daily interactions that we all take for granted. It’s not just the child who feels left out and alone. The struggle is a valiant battle faced by the families of these children as well.
Michelle Guppy, mom to Brandon, knows of this life. Her story is one of strength through adversity in a “life filled with autism, seizures, and a side of trauma,” as she puts it. Michelle wasn’t recruited to her battlefield. She didn’t enlist. She was drafted. As a mom of a child who suffered a traumatic vaccine injury, Michelle faces a daily battlefield built on the hardships of being a “warrior mom of autism.”
Michelle discovered that through organizations like Forged, and the Lone Survivor Foundation, and Team Never Quit she could find the strength to carry on, even when her daily life was just too much – “no,” she says, “especially when her daily life was just too much.”
Michelle writes, “I never volunteered to be on this battlefield, but for the past twenty years I have battled and never quit. I cannot tell you how often I wished my ‘hell week’ was only a week. But I can honestly say that it was these two words, ‘Never Quit,’ that has gotten us through the toughest of times, and though I tend to use many words when only a few will do — I wanted to share with Team Never Quit that what you stand for, motivates me. How thankful I am and will always be for learning about all of you who have truly overcome some sh**!
In a report from the CDC in 2014, it was reported that over seventy-one million people in this world have some form of autism spectrum disorder and one in every 68 births in the United States. With odds like that, it is very likely that someone in your close circle of influence has a family member with autism.
Everyone can’t do everything, but everyone can do one thing. Today, take some time to reach out to a family you know struggling with autism. Come alongside them and say, “I see you. I know you’re struggling, and I want you to know, I’m right here beside you. Keep going! You’ve got this!”