By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
BARTLETT — The “negatives of autism” which include trying to help that child who “lives in a different world” can be overwhelming, explained Mary D. Wasson.
Even though her son is only mildly autistic, Ethan, 14, and the family endure many difficult days, said Wasson. Thankfully Ethan can talk and express himself and does pretty well at a public middle school, she noted.
One day on the way home from school, Ethan told her that “puberty and autism are really hard.” As they talked about the situation, he told her he didn’t have any friends.
Wasson could only think of one reply, she wrote in her blog, mom2mykidsblog.com. Finally, through tears, she told Ethan that she would always be his friend. He looked at her with a completely changed demeanor and said, “Really, you will?”
Wasson told another story about Ethan on her Facebook page, “Loner at Lunch,” which has had 11,000 views though it was just posted on Oct. 4, 2016.
In another post, she told that Ethan was upset that he couldn’t go to a school event which she and her husband had decided would not be a good environment for him because of his awkward social skills. Yet, after she and Ethan discussed it, his heartbreak was quickly forgotten, recalled Wasson.
From these and other experiences, Wasson, who is West Tennessee regional development officer for the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes, has written the book, Marvel in Your Autistic Eyes: Character Lessons From My Son.
She wrote the book because God led her to, she explained in writing.
“Frankly, I was exhausted … of hearing all the negatives of autism,” she explained. As a Christian, she realized that God makes no mistakes so He made Ethan the way he is and planned for her to be Ethan’s main caretaker, wrote Wasson.
“What’s so beautiful about children with autism? They have so many beautiful character qualities … ,” Wasson shared on her Facebook page.
She wanted to “encourage families because it is a very difficult road” with “a lot of unknowns,” said Wasson, who also has a young daughter.
She has discovered that the Facebook page has already been a ministry as parents post experiences with their children who have autism and hear responses from other parents.
Another post on her Facebook page about the book — telling of her son’s struggle to look people in the eye — has had 3,800 views.
Clearly, children with autism do things which “seem a little odd,” she reported. Her son likes a strict routine, which includes watching the TV show, “Wheel of Fortune,” and jumping on their trampoline every day. Ethan also likes reading the dictionary. Actually, the trampoline activity or some energetic activity is recommended by therapists who work with children who have autism as a way for them to cope.
These characteristics are in contrast to some amazing positive characteristics, she continued. For instance, Ethan and many other children with autism are honest, exhibit little or no materialism, are not judgmental so they accept others unconditionally, and are not boastful.
One day she and Ethan were shopping, shared Wasson. The clerk checking them out was a woman who clearly was discouraged. Ethan saw her name tag and said the woman’s name. Then he declared, “That’s the most beautiful name I’ve ever heard.” The clerk smiled.
Though there is always “an element of surprise” with Ethan, people shouldn’t “ever underestimate what God has in store for our precious children with autism,” Wasson wrote.
She often relies on Psalm 139:14 in this journey with Ethan, her daughter, and husband, said Wasson — “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Wasson has started writing another book, Marvel in Your Autistic Eyes Devotions: 365 Days to Find Encouragement in Autism.