Thanks for being a sweet and carefree kid, all things considered. Sure, you require 24-7 supervision, completely blow off instructions and greetings, and shred most things you lay your hands on. But thanks for reminding us that life could be worse—a whole lot worse.
Thanks for forcing your dad and I to work together, for teaching us life’s too short to be petty. You keep my megalomania and selfishness in check. Thanks for reminding us we need to be on the same team, for teaching us how to be partner and work through burnout and refueling.
Thanks for teaching me the humanity, compassion and confidence to intentionally look into a person’s eyes and smile, especially if they’re in a wheelchair or look or act differently, rather than look away uncomfortably.
You've inducted me into the marvelous company of compassionate therapists and professionals who rally, collaborate, brainstorm, strategize, trouble-shoot and vision-cast for you. They have no biological obligation to you, and are vastly underpaid and undervalued by society. Yet they keep coming back for more, day after day. These people floor me.
Strangers devote their lives to researching autism, writing books, and establishing foundations. They march in walkathons to raise money and awareness, and lobby on Capitol Hill to get laws passed, all to help voiceless people like you.
You extract the noble and selflessness out of all of us; it's your greatest contribution to the world. Not bad for a non-verbal kid whom the world labels “severely handicapped.” You've redefined a meaningful life.
Thanks for being you. We celebrate how God gave you to us, exactly the way you are.
By Diane Kim, mom of Jeremy, 10, and Justin, 6. Diane writes about faith, family and special needs at http://www.dianedokkokim.com. This excerpt originally appeared as "Happy Birthday," http://www.dianedokkokim.com/2013/01/08/happy-birthday/