They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Some of those words are people’s perceptions, opinions, and inspirations from what they see in the picture that moment they laid eyes on it. But what they do not see is what happened prior to the picture being taken, the moments right before or even the series of events leading up to the pose that was given. More so, what people do not see or do not know is the life of the person in the photo.
The first picture is of my youngest son, eight-year-old diagnosed with Autism who has symptoms that include severe fixations, obsessions and anxiety over the unexpected. He is holding up a drawing he drew after a day of struggling with wanting things to be perfect. He struggled greatly with not liking to erase and needing to start over every time he made a “mistake”. Often, this included piles of crumbled up papers on our living room floor, loud grunts, and negative self-talk. We spent months setting up many *contingency statements, boundaries, expectations and attempting to provide comfort and reassurance with a simple “it’s ok”. Then one day, this day, he sat down and drew this picture of waterfalls, erasing lines that were crooked and said to himself “it’s ok”. When he was done with his drawing, he ran to me with excitement and pride in himself, not just because of what he drew, but because he completed his first drawing without crumbling up a piece of paper or having a meltdown over a mistake. This moment had to be captured.
The second picture is of my oldest son, 17-year-old senior in high school with undiagnosed symptoms that include social and attention deficits. The smile on his face shows pride in his accomplishment of getting a scholarship and acceptance to the college of his choice. It is a photo a proud parent would post on social media, share with family members and one day scrapbook. However, what you do not see are the parent’s tears of worry over their son’s future; the fears of the unknown if he would know how to maneuver throughout society or implement life skills to survive on his own. You do not see my son’s disorganized thinking or confusion over social cues. While his brain functions amazingly at memorizing facts, breaking down mathematical problems and exquisitely explaining scientific methods, it is delayed at understanding spatial awareness, time management and consequences to his behavior in which effects how he relates to others and how others relate to him.
With both children my husband and I have worked immensely trying to implement strategies that will help them…some of them proactive and some of them reactive strategies. There are days with my youngest son we wonder if anything we are doing is helping change his behavior and with my oldest son we wonder if we should have done more in the past to help his behavior now. But in both situations, we have seen God’s Grace! The outcome of my youngest son’s picture show God is working when we don’t see it and the outcome of my oldest son’s picture show that it is never too late for God to work; in fact, the struggles, whether we realize it or not, are part of God’s working.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
So, my dear friends, especially parents with special needs children, don’t lose hope! Capture the moment your child is smiling, playing, reaching a milestone, and simply enjoying life! May your photos remind you that good days out-way the bad days. And my friends who see photos of our children please know that there is more to it than what you see. Have compassion, empathy and choose your 1000 words wisely.