Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. We see that beauty through our own lens and experiences. Sometimes it is obvious and breathtaking, while other times it is unassuming and inconspicuous. The latter is the one that caught me by surprise, a beauty that is present but not recognized enough. What I observed one morning opened my eyes to the beauty in autism.
If you’ve followed along up to now you know the story of Cassie’s ER visit as well as our trips to UW hospital. Because everything comes in threes, we had a third visit to have her stitches removed. Once again I geared up for another appointment involving strategic parking and navigating with Cassie and Jonathan.
Luck was on our side that morning. Cassie was a trouper as they removed her stitches and Jonathan sat next to me the entire time—a rare feat. I was feeling pretty relaxed as Emily was giving me some follow up instructions. Of course, just as we were preparing to leave, Jonathan bolted out the door. Stunned and with Cassie in my arms, Emily grabbed her from me and said “GO!”.
I ran out of the exam room looking left and right, with no sign of Jonathan. I had now escalated to panic and began running, not knowing which direction he went (and he had plenty of options). Running aimlessly, I turned down a corridor and realized it was a dead end. My panic kicked into high gear, but just as I was about to turn back, I noticed a room with a door slightly ajar. As I walked closer, relief flooded over me as I caught sight of Jonathan. He was intently looking at something with a big smile on his face.
I entered the room to see Jonathan trying his best to interact with a little boy close to his own age. The child had been severely burned over most of his face and neck. He was smiling back at Jonathan and I heard him ask him his name. Jonathan said nothing but continued to smile at the boy. “His name is Jonathan,” I replied, and then realized we were not alone.
Standing several feet away was a man, who I assumed was the child’s father. His face told the story of a parent who was dealing with his own struggles and heartache. But it softened as he watched Jonathan and his son.
He proceeded to tell me that most children were afraid of his son due to the burns that had severely disfigured his face. Finding and keeping friends was challenging, not to mention explaining why his son looked so different from other children. In that moment it dawned on me, the beauty in autism. I looked at him and said, “My son has autism, and to him, your son looks no different than anyone else.” It was a powerful moment for both of us, watching them interact, laugh and smile.
As Jonathan and I made our way back to Cassie, my thoughts were still on the two boys. Had I been so engrossed with the struggles and obstacles raising a son with autism, that I had missed the positive aspects? Or was this an isolated incident? If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I would need to be receptive to those beautiful moments.
The significance of that morning had opened my eyes to a new possibility and I had been given an insight I had never considered. With a clearer field of vision I would know to always be on the lookout for the beauty in autism.