Part two of a two-part essay by Christine MacPherson.
Just like the butterfly, I too will awaken in my own time. ~Deborah Chaskin
When your child is diagnosed with Autism, the direction of your life completely changes course. Autism affects every part of your life. Your family’s life becomes extremely stressful emotionally, spiritually and financially. Navigating through this is not easy and especially with so many unanswered questions about Autism, there is no clear path to follow. Every parent wants to do whatever they can to make their child’s life better and give them every opportunity to reach their full potential. This is challenging when you have a child with Autism. Most doctors and therapists who specialize in treating Autism patients do not accept insurance, leaving families to have to foot the bill themselves for a lifetime. Add to this the cost of a special diet that many children with Autism must be on, and you have the perfect recipe for many families to accumulate enormous debt, possibly leading to financial ruin.
Although this journey is difficult and complicated, I was determined to find the purpose in it. I wanted to do something to help children like Mikey and families like ours know that they were not alone. I wanted to honor my son and bring some good energy into his life. In March of 2011, I founded a small non-profit charity called The Butterfly Mission. The purpose of The Butterfly Mission is to raise Autism Awareness as well as reach out to families with children who have Autism, who are in financial need, and try to lessen the burden by offering grants for different types of therapies. We raise money to provide iPads to facilitate communication to children who are non-verbal. We also collect new and slightly used clothes and toys to be placed in the homes of families who can use them. It makes me feel good to know that we can help other children and make a difference in their lives, and it’s all because of my sweet Mikey.
My son is my greatest inspiration. Nothing comes easy to Mikey. Things that other children learn quickly, like pointing to something they want, has to be taught to Mikey in small steps. These small steps have to repeated several times, possibly over the course of several days, weeks or months until he is able to catch on. He has a hard time understanding the world around him and is overwhelmed by loud noises and crowds. He can’t use words to express his feelings, his needs or his wants. Yet, he is always smiling and always making the best of it. Mikey is my life, my greatest teacher, my heart. There is nothing I wouldn’t do to make his life easier and to help him develop his full potential. Mikey is now five years old and there is a lot that he needs to learn.We face an uncertain future.
What he does understand is love. He can show love and receive love. For that I will be forever grateful and I consider it a blessing. What defines Mikey is his sweet soul, his smile, his giggles and his ability to form connections with people without saying a word. What will always define Mikey is his ability to love.
Autism is the only thing that defines him as 1 in 88.