April is National Autism Month, so today’s entry is about the other Pervis Jackson, our son Pervis Jr (PJ) who is handicapped by autism. PJ was born in 1975 when cases of autism were extremely rare. The statistics then were one child in every 10,000 was diagnosed with autism. I had never heard of the condition, but just knew that we would find the right doctor or facility to help PJ.
The Spinners’ records were becoming hits and they were performing in and out of the country on a regular basis. In 1976, they were the first black group to receive a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood. They were receiving Grammy Nominations along with other awards and honors. Our dreams for my husband’s career were coming true.
Yet, in the middle of all the success, I was living a nightmare. I was going from doctor to doctor to doctor in a search for the one who had the answers for autism. There were no answers and PJ’s behavior had become aggressive, assaultive and unmanagable. I was at my wit’s end.
Parents of children with autism are under tremendous pressure to find the right services or professionals to help our child “recover”. I tried and tried, but in the 1970s and 1980s there was not much help available. Even now, with more services, every child diagnosed with autism will not “recover”. Some of us parents who have accepted the crushing blow of autism have to accept another crushing blow that our child will not recover. Some of us have spent thousands and thousands of dollars only to find this out.
I have written about my experiences in my book “Inspired By Autism”. I was embarrassed by autism, exhausted by autism, defeated by autism, depressed by autism, overwhelmed by autism. I never thought I would get to the point where I could say that I was “Inspired By Autism”. It took 25 years for that to happen. I wrote the book because the perception is that if your child does not “recover” from autism that you will not love them. I want to dispel that myth for parents of younger children with the diagnosis. You will still love them.
Since the diagnosis of autism has reached epidemic proportions, you may know someone who is struggling with a child who has autism. Now, one child in 11o is diagnosed with autism. If you have a friend or family member in the situation, can you offer them “a spoonful of comfort”? Can you fix (or buy) dinner for the family one day a month? Can you offer to sit with the child for a few hours? You will then find out just what the family is up against.
I want to share a poem that I wrote in honor of PJ. It is a “miracle” poem because it is one that I never thought I would write when I first started on this autism odyssey.
A Love So Pure
A love so pure that I am sure
It’s coming straight from God.
This kind of love comes down from above
and right into my heart.
Your smiling eyes were a big surprise
that I never thought I’d see.
Who knew that one day you
would be smiling down at me.
How could I guess that I’d be blessed
for taking care of you?
You’ve taught me a lot of things
about how love can be true.
I never thought the day would come
when you’d be teaching me.
But now I’m sure that when love is pure,
Until the next time: May the Love of God enfold you!