I Cried in the Middle of Starbucks: Autism Awareness Month

Below is a previously published diary entry from West Angeles Web Team member Antoinette Banks, whose daughter, Nevaeh, is on the autism spectrum. We revisit the post in honor of Autism Awareness Month.

Dear Diary,

They said she would never be fully self-dependent. They said she would never speak. They said she would need constant care for the rest of her life. My child is autistic.

Somehow, after hearing the tests results, I drove to my grandmother’s house. And after collapsing in her arms and ruining her lovely handkerchief, I started  replaying what the doctors said.  

What did they mean she would never speak or be independent? 

At the guidance of family members and teachers, I decided to take my 4-year-old through a series of tests. We drove up and down the coast of California going in and out of treatment and research centers. I was exhausted and she was exhausted. But you know what the problem was? I was treating my daughter like a sickness following “just what the doctor ordered.” In our practice of Western medicine, we use science as a way to combine chemical compounds that will treat our illnesses, but at the same time, they ruin our body’s natural defenses. Doctor’s commonly have a rigid focus and treat symptoms with as much medicine as our frail bodies can handle, instead of finding a solution to the problem.

I was treating my daughter as an ailment. I was ruling out all possibilities of what it could be.  I was listening to what other’s told me and not trusting God. I remember chanting silently to myself, “I am doing the right thing,” as I looked into the rearview mirror and saw my daughter’s miserable expression. In her tiny face, I read so much.  I read, “Mommy, I communicate in a way that’s comfortable for me.” “Mommy, I show you my love, why do I have to tell you?”

“Mommy, I’m ok.” 

I remember waking up with a defiant strength and saying, “Lord, it’s in YOUR HANDS. NO MORE TESTS! No more playful exams with blocks and motor skills assessments. No more piercing eyes watching my daughter’s every move, silently writing on a notepad, that STUPID notepad that all doctors must purchase together at some wholesale store.

The absolute minute you stop worrying and allow God to move is the precise time he will show you what he is capable of. Two days ago, I was waiting on my latte at a table nestled in the nook of the Starbucks coffee house while my daughter flipped through the pages of her book. She turned a page, pointed out a few pictures, and said, “Fishy, red, blue, robot.” Almost in a daze, I turned towards her. Then she smiled and opened her little mouth and sang, “Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are.”  It was there, at that moment, that time stood still.  I dropped to my knees and wrapped my arms around her little body. And there I was with tears streaming down my face, IN THE MIDDLE OF STARBUCKS, singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

It’s a beautiful feeling having all of your self-doubt wash away.  One thing that I’ve learned is that God will supply all of our needs. He is the ultimate redeemer, counselor and healer. And if God is capable of resurrecting a dead body, capable of creating mankind and the world we live in within 6 days, He is more than capable of coming against the report of a doctor and showing me a miracle.

There is a reason why God blesses us with our children.  It’s because He trusts us to raise them, but while we are raising them, they, too, raise us.  So let’s let our stars grow and watch as they twinkle. 

Through my own personal account, I have learned that Autism is not some mystery that can be covered and treated with a pill. It is a new wave of learning, thinking and adapting.  Armed with the faith and knowledge of what this disorder entails, coupled with my faith in God, is the only way I have found strength to get the very best care for my daughter who is now on the honor roll at school, taking ballet lessons and wants to be an astronaut some day.

April is National Autism Awareness Month and West Angeles has joined with other congregations around the state in an effort to heighten the levels of awareness through the efforts of the Special Needs Network.

Please join West Angeles as we do our part in spreading education and advocacy on Sunday, April 13, during the 11 a.m. service.  If you or a loved one knows a family member in need of support, please invite them to the loving arms of West Angeles Church.