“Mom, Ms. Grider would like to meet with us.”
My mind immediately went to the worst. “Is there a problem?”
“No, she thinks I should get a minor in speech?”
“She says I’m a natural.”
“I know you like to talk but I don’t know about this. Go ahead and set it up though.”
So, he did over a year ago and Professor Grider managed to convince me that at the very least Chase should take one more speech class. He didn’t need it to graduate but she made her case that it could benefit him. Now here “we” are one week from completing the class and Ms. Grider feels invigorated but Mom is exhausted.
Speechmaking 101 as it turns out is no walk in the park. It’s a rather rigorous class. Four major presentations are required and each one has an assignment packet that’s 20 pages long. Outlines, audience assessments, cognitive dissonance worksheets, scholarly sources, bibliographies, and post presentation evaluations with citations from the textbook. Nothing at all like my college speech classes back in the 80’s which did little to prepare this tutor-mom to help Chase.
Combined his language deficits and inability to read the audience make this class extremely difficult. So much so it highlights his disability and yet he’s approached it with great courage. For his last presentation he’s chosen to speak about autism and the role neuro-typical people can play in helping folks like him. It’s bold to call attention to yourself when you’re already the awkward one in class.
Because every speech has to start by demonstrating there’s a need this meant we had to research autism something I HATE DOING! The irony is that Chase knows little to nothing about autism. His brother the psychology major is consumed by it and Chase see’s this as his greatest downfall. What does it matter he argues with him? Mom falls more in the middle. I want to know the latest but often the news bruises my heart.
This is what makes the topic so compelling because the outlook for young adults on the Autism Spectrum is bleak. Chase can now tell you that researchers liken these years to, “falling off a cliff.” Only forty percent of young adults are getting the support they need and that support is minimal. Even worse, only fifteen percent of adults with autism are employed and of those a smaller proportion are making a living wage.
Statistics like this back-up what I already know from the work I do in the community. They’re why I have to fight to keep a smile on my face when someone tells me, “oh your boys will be fine look how far they’ve come.” I know the person is trying to be encouraging and yet I also know they’re naïve. The reality is my kids face a very uncertain future. All parents can say this to some extent, but the odds are much better for others.
Sunday when I finished editing Chase’s presentation, I really didn’t want to go to church but I also really didn’t want to miss. Where better to rub out the bruise? Walking in I put my cold hand into my coat pocket and found a penny—one I don’t remember putting there. I laughed inside and thought okay Lord I’m listening.
During worship I noticed a young lady that I’ve seen with folks that come to Prom. She’s obviously impacted by some kind of disability but what it is I don’t know and of course it doesn’t matter. What matters is her spirit which is inspiring. As the music started, she was filled with so much joy she was clapping, tapping her feet to the beat, and if a person can shine, she was. It was like a glitter bomb that spread everywhere.
My normally stoic mother started clapping and tapping her foot. Chase who always feels awkward at church joined in and I’d swear my sweetie was a little more animated. A person couldn’t help themselves. It was just the joy of the Lord everywhere.
Tears started pouring down my face while I clapped. Where the Bible says the foolish things of this world will shame the wise, I was experiencing that. Three weeks of research on autism had thrown me in the pit and a woman, many in this world would consider a fool, had shamed me out of it in a good way.
Will Rogers made popular the saying, “There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics.” It speaks to the persuasive power of numbers to bolster an argument. Researchers love stats but standing in church I felt like God said I want you to put those numbers their place which is at the foot of the cross.
It’s a faith walk to be sure. A sober perspective is understandable for any parent like me, but when it throws you in the pit you have to find a way to climb out. I’m thankful for the young lady whose infectious spirit gave me a ladder. Maybe spreading joy in this world is her “job” in which case she’s definitely employed at something worth far more than a paycheck.