Focus forward, not backwards
Guardian Lifestyles Editor
Published: Apr 18, 2013
When parents learn their child has autism, their initial reaction is of shock and many ask the question: “Why me?” But they were reminded by Anglican priest Canon Basil Tynes that they are right where Jesus wants them to be.
The rector at St. Barnabas Church reminded the parents of autistic children who flocked to the church at the corner of Baillou Hill Road and Wulff Road that they cannot go back from where God has called them to go and that they have to press on. He told them that if they don’t do it God’s way that they would come up empty just like the disciples; and to realize that Jesus is the provider.
R.E.A.C.H. (Resources & Education for Autism and Related Challenges) members helped to pack the church to capacity during the service led by the rector, who himself is the father of an autistic child. Tynes based his sermon on St. John’s Gospel, chapter 21, versus 1-14, the third post resurrection experience.
Instead of looking back, the Anglican priest told the parents that the important thing for them is to be able to focus on the way forward and not spend so much time looking backward.
“Instead of asking the question why me, accept who you are and move forward because the children that have been born to us are special in their own right,” he said.
Tynes said parenting autistic children gives parents their opportunity to see to their own personal growth.
“It’s not just about the children, it’s about our own personal growth and development,” he said.
As they raise their children, he told the parents that they should always ensure that they do it God’s way. And he said God’s way meant ensuring that they understand whatever is the God-given task that He gave to them that they fulfill it — even in terms of their children — rather than simply ignoring them or forgetting about them.
The Anglican priest reminded parents that Jesus is the provider. As the parent of an autistic child, Tynes said there are a host of challenges that people have when it comes to providing for children with special needs, but he reminded them that when they do things Jesus’ way, it’s amazing how much more He provides for His people.
And at the end of the day, Tynes said Jesus brings them right where He wants them to be.
He reminded the parents that everyone has value and that it does not matter where they fall on the autism spectrum – that they are still important to God.
The St. Barnabas Church rector told the parents who packed the church to its capacity that when they look at their children, they should not look at their limitations, but realize that some of them can easily excel at whatever they do.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. The disorders are characterized in varying degrees by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues.
Autism appears to have its roots in very early brain development. However, the most obvious signs of autism and symptoms of autism tend to emerge between two and three years of age.
Autism statistics from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify around one in 88 American children as on the autism spectrum — a 10-fold increase in prevalence in 40 years. Studies also show that autism is four to five times more common in boys than girls; and that an estimated one out of 54 boys and one in 252 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States.
As R.E.A.C.H. recognizes Autism Awareness Month during April, Tynes said he believes the task of the parents of autistic children is to make sure that as many Bahamians as possible understand what it is to have a child who suffers from autism, and to ensure that the children gain acceptance, rather than getting the peculiar looks people give them when their parents take them out in public and they act in a particular way.
“We want to get people to understand that they can’t judge everybody by the same book and that you can’t teach them the same way,” said the priest.
While there are no figures on the number of autistic children in The Bahamas, members of R.E.A.C.H. think the number of autistic children in The Bahamas is on pace with the numbers diagnosed internationally, simply because they are outgrowing the classroom space they currently have.
There are currently two primary school autistic units — one at Garvin Tynes Primary and the other at Stapledon School for the Mentally Challenged. There is one high school unit at Anatol Rodgers School.
The region’s first preschool classroom equipped to meet the needs of autistic children was opened last year at Willard Patton Preschool, courtesy of Rotary club, R.E.A.C.H. and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.