One of my good friends cares for her mother who has advanced Alzheimer’s disease. This friend also has a son with Asperger’s—a mild form of autism. As my youngest daughter, Rachel, has severe autism, we spend a lot of time discussing our daily trials.
We’ve found that life with autism and Alzheimer’s is similar in many ways. We both must deal with a considerable amount of repetitive behavior, confusion, tantrums, and our own emotional battles as caretakers. And we have both struggled to find daily hope. We share the hope that, in heaven, our loved ones will be healed completely, and we look forward to the day someone finds a cure for these afflictions of the mind.
Yesterday, we stopped by my friend’s house. My friend’s mother, Grace*, was sitting in her bedroom by herself in the dark. I thought Rachel would want to be outside with the other kids playing on the trampoline and running around. But when I put Rachel outside, she snuck right back in. I followed Rachel around the hall and watched as she ran into Grace’s dark room.
To my memory this was the first time she’d been to this house, and she’d never met Grace. I worried about disturbing Grace, but she said Rachel was fine. Still, I pulled Rachel out because there was a complicated blood-pressure machine that did not look like it’d be cheap to replace. This went on for 30 minutes, until Rachel ran into the room, pushed me out the door, and slammed it in my face.
I jogged back to the kitchen and told my friends about it. We took a moment to laugh at the hilarity of the situation then we got quiet. I wondered what it was about Grace that had so enamored my daughter. Was it the location of the bedroom? The quietness of it? Or was it something about Grace herself, perhaps her simplicity, which attracted Rachel? Whatever it was, Rachel has a new best friend. It’s pretty cool.
*Not her real name
Jennifer Dyer has an M.S. in Communications Disorders, which served her well in her professional career as a speech-language pathologist. Never did she imagine that her education and career were God’s way of preparing her to be a mom to her own daughter with autism. Today, she enjoys reaching out to other families who face similar diagnoses. As a cancer survivor, carpet-cleaning veteran, and originator of the “Messy House Ministry,” Jennifer feels blessed to share joy, peace, and humor with others facing life’s challenges. She is mom to two beautiful daughters and is thankful to be raising them, serving other families with unique needs, and using her gift of writing and speaking to minister to others. Jennifer is also the author of a youth fiction book series and is trusting God with His timing on publication. Jennifer has been a mom for 11 years. She and Brandon have been married for 13 years.