Joyce Rohe hoped to protect her son, who was on the autism spectrum, from a world that she feared would treat him unfavorably. Therefore, when his therapy regimen changed to include more public interaction, the last thing she expected was to have her eyes opened to a world of love and kindness. Joyce shares her beautiful story, "A Loving World," in our book about raising kids on the spectrum:
I love Luke and Faith more than I thought possible prior to becoming a mom. I love each of them in a unique way. I'd imagine most mothers would express something similar regarding their own children -- the love for each is equal, but different.
I've tried hard to always make sure Luke and Faith each feel accepted and cherished for exactly who they are. I've often wondered how God knew that I wanted precisely these two kids. Still, if I've ever played favorites, the scales have leaned toward Luke -- not because I love him more, but because I feared the world would love him less.
I wanted to make up for the disappointment and rejection that I thought would characterize his interactions with others -- the bullying, the comments and the stares. I knew I couldn't, but I'm his mom. I had to try. Recently, Luke's program supervisor made some changes to his therapy regimen that required him to go out in public to practice his newly acquired skills. There was a certain comfort in having him in private home therapy. At home I could control who entered his orbit, creating a giant love bubble of protection around him, but I also knew that branching out was a positive step. So, a couple of months ago, Luke began taking daily field trips with his therapists.
I was not prepared for what happened next.
Everywhere he went, I watched Luke turn people into the best versions of themselves. Normally indifferent employees broke into big smiles when Luke came through the door of their store or entered their checkout lane. Hurried customers waited patiently as Luke practiced giving and receiving money from the cashiers. Life slowed down and people took time out of their day to talk to Luke. He evoked feelings in them that made them want to be a part of his progress. They liked who they were with Luke. He made them better.
There was Russ, a gentleman in charge of pony rides at a local park. The rides were closed, but he saddled up a horse for Luke anyway. As we left, he gave us his phone number, encouraging us to call anytime Luke wanted to ride.
There was Joshua, a 13-year-old boy, and his brothers and sisters, who played soccer with Luke. I'll never forget the sound of him yelling, "Let's let Luke score the winning goal!"
There was Lauren, who took Luke swimming because he wanted to go in the pool and I didn't have a change of clothes for myself.
There was the young man at the pet store, whose name I didn't catch, who took animals out of the tanks for Luke to experience up close -- all of them angels in human form, and the very few people who have lived down to my expectations have made me appreciate the acts of kindness from everyone else so much more.
So, to my precious son, I'm so sorry for doubting your superpowers, and to those who have embraced my son with love and compassion, thanks for proving me wrong, and loving him more.