Living in the tension of autism, apraxia and faith.

Last week at church we watched a video of Andy Stanley talking about tension and how it relates to faith. The take away for us, was huge: Tension. I still can’t get it out of my mind. There are so many areas of life that I live in tension; battling this extreme from that extreme. I had never thought to put the word “tension” to what I was feeling in these certain circumstances, but that’s what it is. And I love putting a word to how I’m feeling. It makes sense of it all for me. I’m able to move forward, instead of stuck in this realm of wandering and frustration. I have tension, and that’s okay. It’s even normal! {who knew??}

Last weekend we spent a lot of time outside, enjoying our pre-summer weather. We took the kids to Lockwood and as we pulled up to the park, Liam quickly searched his device and pushed the button for “farm” and then gave us a big cheeky grin!! This kid loves him some animals! He could have jumped out of his skin, he was so excited to feed the animals and hear them make sounds. It was equally as exciting for Matt and I to watch him be so aware of his surroundings, wanting to share his experience with us. 
However, it’s moments like these that the tension of autism and typical development are felt. Like any other kid, Liam gets excited for adventure. However, when we are out in public, Liam is the buddy that is running back and forth 100x in the same, restrictive repetitive manner. Now clearly, we don’t care how he enjoys himself, only THAT he enjoys himself and his surroundings. That’s the real battle we deal with, trying not to care what other parents think, or what the workers think when Liam doesn’t do the craft in a typical manner. Do we come to his defense? Do we just love him, let him be and live our lives? It seems an obvious answer, and it is. But that’s the tension we live in. We FEEL that. We don’t care about it, but we feel it. And in that moment, we can feel the difference. 
Cue to today, when I pick him up from school and his teacher tells me that he said “cow” in class. Cow??? Just a random “cow”?? They are learning about farm animals this week and with all the excitement of last weekend, Liam had so much built up energy about it, out came “cow”! 
Now, herein lies the devil that is apraxia. At random moments, words like “cow”, or “igloo”, or “Liam” come flying out of his mouth, clear as day, and it’s just for that moment. So there is a lot of, what I can now call tension, in that as his parents. We want to scream from the roof top “Liam said COW”!!!!!, but then we are really frustrated for Liam because we see evidence that so much information is in that beautiful mind of his that just can’t get out. We are always thrilled about any progress, and we praise and encourage Liam, because he works so hard and he deserves to be celebrated for it, but man. 
Another angle of the tension we live with is faith vs. reality. We don’t mention our faith much on these posts or as it relates to Liam’s struggles because sometimes in the church world, we like to give platitude to struggle. We don’t like living in tension. We like clean lines, clear answers, no heartache. We don’t know what to do with tension. We feel guilty for it. We feel embarrassed by it. It doesn’t sit right. If I believe in God, how can I believe in pain and hurt? It’s ugly. 
We don’t have the answers to those questions, but for us, and as it relates to our journey? All we have is our faith. All we have is hope. We read the statistics. We hear what the doctors and therapists tell us to expect. But we also see opened doors, and culminating progress, and surprised faces on therapists when Liam blows past expectation. We see both. We feel both.
It’s not been easy the last few years to be full of faith and hope and fear and anger, all at the same time. We’re not use to that as people of faith. We are angry that Liam has to struggle. We are hopeful that he will live an independent life. We are fearful that something could happen to us before that happens. We have faith that God will open doors that need to be opened for Liam to get the help he needs. We are angry that Liam has to learn so many things that most of us naturally know. We have faith that God can turn ugly, frustrating, door-closing situations into something beautiful and unexpected.
And so we have tension We live it in. We celebrate in it. We cry and struggle in it. But we’ve learned that living in truth is freedom. And that freedom of truth and hope and grace is a difficult, but beautiful place to be. 
xo~Team Oakes

2 thoughts on “Living in the tension of autism, apraxia and faith.

  1. We have 4 year old son with autism who is also non-verbal. I found your Fatherhood Project video through the FlowerPatch Farm Girl blog (also participated in Father Project). I love your video about Liam and parenting him. I imagine that we have similar experiences and struggles. Thank you for sharing about your precious son!

    • Hi Jen — Thanks for your reply. I’m sure we all could sit down and talk for a very, very long time 🙂 I hope you’re finding a support network in your neck of the woods.


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