<![CDATA[A New Baptism: The Eyes of a Special Needs Parent, by Rachel Fussleman]]>

Strutting around the field, Antonio Brown took off his shirt in the middle of the football game and threw it in the crowd. He flew up the peace sign and left. Just like that! Abandoned his team and did something unthinkable. My first thought? Sarcastic humor and astonishment. I started scrolling through Twitter and laughed at the instant meme he had become. At some point, though, it became not funny. I read more about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Then, with a thud of guilt, I realized that this man deserved my prayers. Like his (now former) quarterback Tom Brady said, “I think everyone should be very compassionate and empathetic toward some very difficult things that are happening.”

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     As special needs parents, we have been plunged into a baptism of compassion. Our radar and minds know better. We should see the world differently. Walk with me through a typical example: stopping by Walgreens and you notice the clerk hyperfocus on the things you are buying. The line gets longer behind you as he avoids eye contact and prattles on about the type of water you purchased. People behind you start to show signs of impatience. Your first thought, however, is “This is my child.” You smile and see the soul of this man. He probably has some form of autism. You would have never had that thought before. I’m not a doctor or psychiatrist. I don’t go around diagnosing people in my head. However, because I am an autism mom, I have a tremendous gift. God has stretched my heart and made room for more compassion and patience towards those who, at first glance, seem odd or “abnormal.” It’s up to me to choose this path of acceptance when faced with individuals who others write off and avoid. It’s up to me to teach my children to do so as well. 

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     I’m still training my brain to think this way. As evidenced by my first reaction to Brown’s

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tantrum on the football field, I have a ways to go. I have been conditioned to react with contempt when faced with atypical behaviors. It’s just the way of concupiscence. We want to fit in. We want everyone else to fit in too. And when others show signs of abnormalities, we are so quick to judge. 

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     The blessing of having a child with special needs is that, after years of dealing with atypical behaviors in my own home, I can go out into the world with the lens of great compassion. It’s a huge responsibility. I know, understand, and have experience with atypical behaviors. I know better. My kids know better. My first reaction should be to tap into that new heart I’ve been given by God in the baptism of special needs. 

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     What a marvelous fruit of this life we are called to. As we reflect on the recent feast of the Baptism of our Lord, let us thank Him for the immersion our family has received and go out into the world with new hearts and opened eyes!  

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A native of Cajun, South Louisiana, Rachel is a wife &amp; stay-at-home autism mom with 4 kiddos living life enthusiastically in Allen, TX. She blogs at rosesforchrist.wixsite.com/rosesforchrist or you can find her on twitter @RayRayFuss

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