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When my son was diagnosed with autism, I thought God had picked the wrong mom. Then I remembered Moses.

It was just a piece of paper, weighing less than an ounce, but it was the heaviest burden I would ever hold. Some papers cut deeper than others: divorce papers, a Do Not Resuscitate form, or even a pink slip. Are they “just a piece of paper”? Hardly. On August 20, 2004, a four-by-six-inch piece of paper leveled my world, when a pediatric neurologist scribbled onto a prescription pad and slid it across his desk:

Patient meets diagnostic criterion 299.00 of the DSM-IV. Moderate to severe autism. Severely disabled. Mentally retarded. Cognitively impaired. Non-verbal. Aggressive intervention of 40 weekly hours of applied behavioral analysis, speech therapy, occupational therapy, plus ancillary supports strongly advised. Prognosis unknown.

After months of speculation, evaluations, and dread, our firstborn was diagnosed with autism.

Just like history is divided into BC and AD, so was our family narrative neatly bisected into two distinct eras: Before Autism and After. Before Autism, my hazy impression of special needs parents was that they were a rare breed of human, noble souls preternaturally gifted with patience and oozing with otherworldly enlightenment.

That’s why God picked them. Ordinary persons were not worthy of so lofty a calling.

That is, until God picked me, a spectacularly less than average woman. Impatient and shrill, I once got so fed up at my child eating with his hands that I wrapped his fingers around a fork and sealed it into a fist with tape. Alarmed, my husband intervened and released our son before Child Protective Services found out.

Well-intended friends must have shared the same uninformed understanding because they attempted to encourage with, “It takes a special person to raise a special …

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