At the age of 2 1/2 years, our son Ben was diagnosed with high-functioning autism.  When we received this diagnosis, it did not come as a great surprise;  from the very beginning, Ben defied most of the advice in the parenting books that I eagerly devoured in anticipation of raising our little boy the “right” way.  Images of easy-going days built around Mom and Baby yoga, playdates, and time to recharge during long afternoon naps soon morphed into the reality of walking circles around our house during the day to soothe our baby’s crying and silently pleading for a 20-minute reprieve when he might fall asleep in the swing at least one time during the day.  Amidst the exhaustion and frustration, I recognized, deep-down, a matchless quality in  Ben’s  little personality.  He was an old soul with an endearing charisma about him.

Those who spent time with Ben in the early days, sharing his excitement over matchbox car line-ups and collections of gumballs from neighbors’ yards, developed an understanding and great affection for his uniqueness.  At the same time, the obsessive-compulsive tendencies and severe social anxiety associated with Ben’s autism required a vast amount of patience and energy on a daily basis.  In adapting to Ben’s strong preference for the familiarity of family and rituals, I often felt isolated from the outside world.  The idea of Ben surviving in a typical preschool seemed far-fetched;  however, we knew of no other alternatives in those beginning stages and decided to follow-through with our plans to have Ben attend a  preschool program at a nearby church just two mornings each week.

In our own anxiety and uncertainty,  God placed this loving, knowledgeable preschool teacher in our lives.  This teacher met Ben at his own pace while gently encouraging him to venture into new territories.  At the same time, she took me by the hand, and walked with me as we navigated the maze of educational options in our quest to provide Ben with the services needed to help him reach his potential.

Ben spent that first year of preschool quietly at the heels of  this wonderful teacher who took note of each little success that he achieved within her safety. Milestones such as touching paste and sand, playing near a peer, or incorporating a siren sound while pushing a fire truck all called for celebration.  On one particular Spring afternoon,  Ben’s teacher, a gleam in her eyes, stepped-out into the hall to let me know how the morning went.  In her hands, she held a large piece of newsprint covered with swirls of red easel paint, resembling a swan.  Attached on the corner, several yellow sticky notes bore quotes reading, “Ben painted!”  “I am painting!”  “I painted music!”  That day, Ben not only referred to himself as “I” instead of his usual “Ben,” through his painting, he captured the essence of the classical music that played nearby the easel.

“I painted music!”  Isn’t that what God desires us to do for Him?  To put words and images to those aspects of our faith which can be so difficult to see at times?   When we choose to share God’s grace through our words and actions, we are creating a visual image of the love that God so freely shares with us.  We are painting music!  God’s music!