The Truth About Autism

The Truth About Autism

My younger brother, Joshua (14), and my little sister, Elizabeth (2), both have forms of autism.

Joshua has Asperger’s Syndrome. On the spectrum, he has what’s considered “high functioning” autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which means that some of what he does is like the average person, but several of his personality traits are different and enhanced.

Elizabeth has a stronger form of autism. Her behavior, mental processes, functionality, emotions – all of these things are affected by the way her brain works.

I have met different people who have said something about my siblings’ autism that has really rubbed me the wrong way.

While talking about Joshua’s high functioning autism, the only way these people knew how to respond was by saying, “But he [Joshua] is so smart.”

Autism, just like many other disorders, is tainted by common misconceptions.

By pointing out how smart Joshua is (which he is, by the way), that’s saying that he can’t have Asperger’s since he is intelligent.

Autism, in its many shapes and forms, affects how individuals learn things and see the world. It does not mean that they’re naïve, dumb, stupid, or any other unkind word that’s often silently associated with disorders.

By denoting that ASD is “not normal,” we’re saying that we’re right and they’re wrong.

The truth is, the average person tends to be balanced in their abilities – their strengths and weaknesses. In contrast, the autistic person experiences much less balance in their life. Their responses to things can be unpredictable and often intense. As well as this, they excel in areas of thinking and performing that the average person couldn’t ever dream of achieving.

Isn’t that a beautiful thing?

There are people in this world who are wired differently than the masses.

These are the people who have found ways of inventing things and fixing problems that we never would have thought possible of accomplishing!

Elizabeth is the most unique, quirky toddler I’ve ever met. Her transition into toddlerhood was a rocky one, to be sure, but she has so many bright and fun moments, it more than makes up for the hardships she faces. Our family adores watching her, and we’re all excited with each and every bit of progress she makes. She’s making large strides in her understanding of language and communication, as well as how the world works. This sweet little girl is in my prayers often, because I want her to grow up in a family who’s willing to learn about how her brain processes things so that we can effectively teach and help her.

When I think of autism spectrum disorder now, I no longer stereotype it. I can see that their are huge differences in every autistic individual, and I certainly don’t see it as a handicap anymore.

Every autistic person deserves to be treated with love, kindness, and understanding – just like every person on this planet does.

For this post, Joshua has graciously agreed to answer nine questions I’ve asked him on this topic. I’m very happy to provide an inside look on how a high-functioning autistic person sees autism. Thanks again, Joshua!

My Interview With Joshua On Autism

1. Do you see Asperger’s syndrome as a disorder? Why or why not?

I don’t see it as a disorder. It just shows I’m unique in certain ways.

2. What are the pros of Asperger’s for you?

If I’m interested in something, I’m really good at it. I can take a lot of stimulation.

3. What are the cons?

I forget things easily – like names, [and] if someone asks me to do something, I’m not actually focused on what they’re saying. If I don’t like something, I really don’t like it.

4. Mom mentioned that when you were younger, you stuck to a strict routine (with food and daily habits), but now you are much more adventurous. Why do you think you’ve made that change?

I’m able to enjoy life more by being dangerous and exploring things – for example, getting about six feet of air off a bike ramp. Being a daredevil’s a lot of fun.

5. Our family knows how optimistic you are. How are you able to keep such a positive outlook on life?

Because being negative doesn’t bring me up at all, so I’ve just stuck to a positive aspect …. All in all, just being positive, it gets rid of negativity. If you’re negative, it isn’t gonna help you. If you’re positive, it will help you.

6. What do you want others to know about autism?

  • Don’t judge someone because of them being autistic. Some people can have slight stages [forms] of autism, and others have stronger ones.
  • Don’t stare.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask [an autistic child’s] guardian about their child so you can learn more about autism.

7. How do you want other people to look at Elizabeth?

Just respect her and don’t make fun of her.

8. Thank you for letting me interview you. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

My autism is actually very helpful, and not much negative, which is nice. Autism is just the way somebody looks at life – it’s not crippling, it’s not a disease … it can affect some people more than others.

In conclusion, I am very passionate about protecting my sweet siblings. I’d love to educate people and allow them to learn more about autism specifically, because these special kinds of people don’t deserve the wrong, awful stereotypes that are associated with them.

If you met Joshua, you’d see a boy who’s passionate and talkative about what he’s interested in. You’d see a guy who cares about people way more than the average boy his age. You wouldn’t see Asperger’s syndrome unless you knew he had it before you met him.

If you met Elizabeth, you’d see a toddler who’s insanely curious about the world around her. You’d see a child who lights up when she’s able to communicate what she’s feeling and needing, and you’d see a girl who adores animals and being creative. You wouldn’t see autism unless you were aware of her having it.

Just like all of us, people with autism have good days and bad days. Learning to help my little brother and sister through both kinds of days is causing me to grow as a person, in ways I never would have imagined possible. I am beyond grateful for the Lord’s hand in all of this … I know He has beautiful plans for all of us.

A Caged Heart ~ (Guest Post)

A Caged Heart ~ (Guest Post)

I recently asked a good blogging friend of mine, Bayance, if she’d be interested in writing a guest post for my blog.

In this heartfelt guest post, Bayance opened up about the spiritual and emotional struggles she’s been facing lately, giving us an inside look on how the girl behind the blog has been feeling. Thank you for being so honest!

A Caged Heart: By Bayance

You know those dark thoughts you get when you feel like you’re not enough for society? or that you can’t fit into a certain group? Well sometimes I feel like I’m not enough and worthy either but not for the reasons people do nowadays. I’ve come to a point in my life where I don’t care if others “approve” or “validate” me. I’m not living for you so why would I dedicate my life to suit your opinions, you know? I know there’s a bigger picture. But what happens when you feel like you’re not enough for the Creator? Never feeling prepared for the day where we’ll stand in front of Him? I usually like to keep this topic private but I thought I’d share a bit of how I was feeling for the past year and possibly help someone out there who is going through the same thing. No one? Okay – let’s begin.

This all started last October when my oldest brother had been given Hidayah (guidance gifted from Allah – essentially that aha or *click* moment). He came home and told me that he sincerely repented and that he was set to change his ways. Now my brother wasn’t very religious (I hate using the word religious because it’s like this uncool thing to improve yourself for the afterworld which is the whole point of life in the first place but anyways) – I’m not going to call him out or anything but he was in a dark place throughout high school and just hearing this started my first spiritual breakdown. Basically me crying out of nowhere and my whole family just looking at me like I’m insane.

I’m not too sure what happened but my heart literally felt like it was going to leap out. I didn’t know if I was proud…inspired…sad that I’ve been doing the absolute minimum when it came to Islam? I’m not sure how to describe it to you but it’s like this heaviness in my heart like a fire and it reaches my throat and then my vision goes blurry and blehhh (that was a terrible description but you get the idea). I guess it’s like a normal breakdown but it happens so abruptly and aah I don’t know.

These breakdowns happened when I listened to Islam educators or scholars. For example, I was listening to Nouman Ali Khan and just him mentioning how merciful God is just shattered me. It’s like this pure moment of amazement and submission and then guilt starts to roll in.

• I haven’t done enough

• I’m not ready for Judgement Day

• I can do so much more

• Why can’t I feel anything?

• I don’t deserve all these blessings

• Why me specifically?

• I’m not enough

These aren’t as negative as they look but I just can’t wrap my head around why I was chosen to be gifted with the message of Islam or to have an amazing family and a healthy body and aah alhamdulillah (gratitude to Allah) for everything. And I know people say God planned everything out perfectly and He chose people for a reason but I have a responsibility here. I’ve been put into this life, this human being, for a reason and I don’t know how much I need to do to…repay Him? To prove myself? I’m not sure how to put it to words because God does not need any of his creation and we need him. I remember one time my brother asked what I’ve been doing lately in terms of Quran memorization and additional prayers and I just came back from shopping. I didn’t know what to feel. Guilty? Angry? I am aware of what this world is and why we are here but I can’t help but feel like I’m being sucked into life’s distractions and I know better than that.

I get mad at myself for being able to above and beyond with school, volunteering (which are still important in Islam) but it’s still things that I can see. I can’t imagine not putting my all into the things I do but when comes to the most important thing in the world, I don’t? Why do I feel nothing? Believe me, it is so hard to feel nothing when I’m supposed to feel everything the most. I hate how it has to be someone else to remind me or give me advice when I lose it but I can’t feel anything myself. It’s like there’s a cage over my heart and it’s trying so hard to burst but I don’t know how to unlock it. Ew these metaphors are corny but deal with it.

When it comes to advice, I can speak for so long but following my own is something I still struggle with to this day. I can tell you to repent and that Allah is all-forgiving but when it comes to me, I feel ashamed or monotone. But you know what? It’s still the best way. Call out to the Creator. He knows what’s in everyone’s hearts and he knows us better than we know ourselves. Let your heart out through praying. Confront your guilt. It’s the only and best way.

If I were to tell a psychologist how I was feeling, they’d tell me to leave what’s causing these thoughts. But no, if your heart is on the verge of opening out, let it. You’re almost there. Don’t accumulate your emotions and guilt. Call out to Him and He will guide you. I’m still a work in progress but we all are. We all have imperfections inside and out. We are flawed no matter what. Just learning to accept that and working towards improving yourself will -inshallah (if God wills)- bring you peace and reward in the hereafter.

Thank you so much for being open and sharing what you’re going through / have gone through, Bay. ❤ I’m praying that God will lead and guide you so that you will find peace and strength in Him. He’s there for you!

Please go check out Bayance’s blog for more of her posts.

To The Friends I’ve Lost

To The Friends I’ve Lost

Dear Past Relationships,

It was always my goal to give my 100%. For years, I’ve hoped that someone else I enjoyed spending time with would like me enough to give me their 100%, too.

Common interests was what used to hold those times of closeness together, and in the times in between, I’d remember the little things about each person.

I’d write down their birthdays as soon as they told me the date. I’d reach out to them to see how they were doing if I hadn’t heard from them in a while. I’d let them know I cared for them when they were sick or hurting.

I longed to find someone, honestly just one person, that could feel the same way about me that I do about people. I enjoy making people smile and laugh; I love knowing that my companionship means something to someone else; I adore being the person who’s willing to listen to what they’re going through and then be there for them.

I’ve done my best, since I was a preteen, to be loving and kind toward my “friends” …

And maybe that’s the issue.

I don’t dump my problems on my friends. I don’t push the courtesy limits and wait to respond to someone when they reach out to me. I don’t wait for months to send them presents, and I certainly don’t forget their birthdays.

I don’t take out a bad day on the people I care about, and maybe that’s what sets me apart.

Maybe people think I care too much, and that my signs of affection point toward clinginess, that I’m too good to be true. Do they really think I have ulterior motives? If they’d only see the person behind the screen who simply wants to be kind to others, maybe they’d understand.

Then again, maybe they don’t want to.

The friendships I’ve lost are not because the second party died. If any death happened, it was the abrupt and painful end of a friendship. People struggle to care for me like I care for them.

The only comfort I find during times like this is when I’m in the arms of my Savior. He is the One Who continually loves me, through every season of my life. He makes me feel special, wanted, set apart, and most of all, noticed. I don’t have to worry about how He sees me, because I know His care, mercy, and grace are eternal – they are pure and everlasting.

Countless times, I’ve given up on people … but the Lord will never give up on me.

I don’t want to deny friendships for good, but boy, do I feel close to doing so sometimes. I’ve learned to care for people until they no longer like or need me, which is a pretty tough place to be.

The hardest part of losing all these friendships is the fact that I did my best to keep them alive. I’d put in 200% at times, sacrificing my peace in one last attempt to give the other party the chance to resuscitate our relationship, only to find out they really didn’t care.

One thing I know for sure is this: I’m not going to let this reality of my life make my heart grow hard. I’m not going to allow this deep pain to change the fact that I want to care for people, that I care for them as long as they’ll let me. I’m going to rely on the Lord’s strength when someone’s unkindness starts to get to me … I won’t allow this world to make me mean.

I had to write this this morning to let out some of the pain that’s been on my heart these last several hours. Losing a friend will never get easier for me, and I was deeply saddened to see this one end.

Your comments would be much appreciated. 💖

My Outreach Ministry

My Outreach Ministry

“God will not give you a talent and then fail to give you opportunities for discovering, using, developing, practicing, and perfecting it.” – Dr. Charles Stanley

I’ve been wondering, for quite a while, how the Lord would use what He’s given me to glorify Him.

My relationship with Him began about seven years ago, although it honestly feels like I’ve always been walking with Him. I can’t remember much before I accepted Jesus as my Savior, and in the years after that important decision, I can look back and see His hand at work in every season of my life.

I couldn’t always acknowledge or see it at the time, but He has been present in both my highest moments and my lowest points.

I fully believe that He has given all of us special talents and abilities in an earthly sense, and He also blesses His children with spiritual gifts. What we’re able to do that most others can’t is absolutely a gift, whether that’s cooking masterfully, creating gorgeous paintings, understanding scientific calculations, and so on and so forth. When I tell a good joke and get everyone in the room laughing, or someone is blown away by how well I keep my living space organized, I’m never able to just pat myself on the back and take all the credit.

Outwardly, I accept the compliments and grin, appreciating the recognition, but inside? I’m giving the Lord all the praise.

Of course, there is the thing of fully utilizing what I’ve been given – that’s a choice, and I can be thankful that I’m living up to my full potential. But it’s also about being faithful with what He’s given me, and I have these talents, gifts, and special abilities so that I can impact the lives of others for His glory.

One of the biggest ways I’ve seen Him work through what He’s given me has been just in these past few weeks.

The Lord placed on my heart the desire to start something new – a project that would utilize my ability to be creative, stay organized, and inspire others, which is the perfect thing for me to be passionate about!

I began an outreach ministry at the little church I’m currently part of that has already encouraged so many people.

I have started creating little gift bags, which are full of encouragement and kind words. I encourage others to take one if they’re going through a rough season in their lives and could use a bit of love and inspiration. These bags also make great gifts – my pastor had suggested bringing them to people staying in the hospital, which I thought was a beautiful idea.

The featured image of this post showcases where I’ve organized all of the ministry supplies. It’s so pretty and girly!

What started as the desire to inspire others has turned into a full-on ministry, where I get to use three gifts and talents the Lord has given me! I had no idea this passion could grow so quickly – everyone I’ve talked to about it has been deeply encouraged by what I’m doing, which just confirms to me that the Lord’s hand is upon it.

The quote I shared at the beginning of this post made my heart absolutely sing.

For so long, I’ve believed, in the back of my mind, that if I wanted to accomplish things for the Lord, I’d have to find a way for all of it to work out. However, I’m now learning that bringing Him glory is by being faithful with what He’s given me – He will do the rest!

I have not had to put a fraction as much work into this ministry as I would have thought I’d have to. What started as making ten gift bags to bring to church became a project financially funded by others and blessed by the people who are dearest to my heart. I am still in awe as I watch all of the little details effortlessly work out.

This is most definitely something that the Lord is doing. I may have had the initial “idea,” and I may be doing most of the work involved behind-the-scenes, but He’s the One Who gave me the idea – I’m simply the one He used to present it and bring it to life.

Being entrusted something as beautiful and life-changing as this ministry has already blessed me tenfold. I absolutely believe that when you set out to bless and encourage others, you are blessed and encouraged in return.

What I’ve shared above is certainly not why I’m doing this ministry, but I still think it’s beautiful how helping others has been a blessing right back.

If you’re inspired by this ministry idea, please feel free to make it your own! I’m praying that this gift bag project won’t just stay in one church, but rather that it will grow into something that can bless a great many people.

Feel free to email me – I’d be happy to share how exactly I’m coordinating all of this, and we could figure out how you can start something similar!

Have a blessed day!

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” – Matthew 5:14

The Peace I Seek

The Peace I Seek

“The person you see yourself to be will in the end be the person you become.” – Dr. Charles Stanley

My church has a huge library full of both fiction and nonfiction Christian books.

I had the pleasure of browsing it for the first time this past Sunday (when I first visited the church the weekend before, we left before I could look lol). I ended up taking home six different books that I’m pretty excited about reading.

One of them, which stood out to me the most, is called ‘Finding Peace.’ It was written by my favorite pastor and Christian author, Dr. Charles Stanley.

Out of the five chapters I’ve read so far, it has become more and more apparent to me that what I’m seeking in this season of my life is peace.

I’ve shared recently that the past several years of my life have been unintentionally defined by medical concerns, as well as the births of my two youngest siblings (both of which ended up overlapping on occasion). I based how I felt about my life on temporary struggles, which resulted in immense emotional tension, constant anxiety, over-analyzing everything, and struggling in my relationships with the Lord and my family.

I can now see how much pain I was in during that time, but I didn’t realize it when it was going on. That resulted in feeling extremely poorly about my life, because my focus and vision were tainted by the worst thing I was facing at the time. I no longer looked for the best in things and instead became an avid realist and pessimist, raining on my own parade and negatively affecting others.

My inspiration for writing this post came from what Dr. Stanley talked about in ‘Finding Peace.’ He said that we base the peace we feel in life on temporary circumstances instead of letting our peace be rooted in our relationship with the Lord … and I could immediately see that the same was true for me.

If I allow myself to be instantly affected by the negativity I meet every single day, it doesn’t matter what the struggle is – it will affect me more than it should. My reaction to difficulties, stress, confusion, and fear should be based on the fact that I trust in the Lord to protect me, lead me, and guide me, because I know that He loves me. Overreacting and allowing negative feelings to linger is absolute poison.

What I’m now in the process of learning is this:

No matter what I’m going through, the Lord remains the same.

By keeping this in mind, I know that no matter what comes my way, it is there for a reason. I can endure it knowing the Lord’s teaching me through it, and I can rest in His strength and peace instead of turning to the circumstances of my life for my well-being.

I’m choosing to learn from mistakes and circumstances instead of letting them hurt and change me. When bad things happen, I’ll remember that the Lord has everything in His hands. I will trust in Him to guide me. I desire for my peace to rest in this, not in what’s currently happening around me.

I’m pursuing nurturing a peaceful mind and a peace-filled lifestyle.

The progress I’m already making is an encouragement to me. I’m excited about seeing where pursuing the Lord’s peace will take me!

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 KJV

Content In The Present

Content In The Present

“Stop worrying about what can go wrong, and get excited about what can go right.”

I mentioned in a post recently that I have the tendency to overthink.

It’s something I’ve struggled with quite a bit daily since I was a preteen. I worry about past mistakes, the uncertainty of the future, and everything else in between. I’m scared that I’m not making the right decisions, and I’m saddened by the wrong that I’ve done.

Instead of being able to see the beautiful progress I make (especially just here recently), my faults and shortcomings are ever before me. Having a brain that remembers far too much is both a blessing and a curse, but I feel that the latter plagues me more than the former.

I am slowly learning, by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, that I can put these recurring thoughts out of my head. I’m learning about how to live more in the moment and much less in the past and future, which is much easier said than done.

If I’m always living in what once was, or what possibly will be, where does my life in the present go?

I don’t realize it at the time I’m overthinking, since my mind is consumed by anxiety then, but I’m sacrificing truly living if I’m dwelling on the bad in the past or the mysteries of the future.

I do not wish to live my life governed by the stress that wells up within me. The Lord has not called me to barely make my way through this thing called life, and He hasn’t planned for me to figure all this out for myself, either.

When I trust in Him to lead me, I am never disappointed.

There have been times (and I’m certain there will be more) when things happen in a slower manner than I’d prefer. If I’m seeking an answer from Him on something, then I feel like it’s important for me to know right then. I can’t see the fact until later that He’s always at work behind-the-scenes, organizing and perfectly planning situations long before I’m even experiencing them.

For example, I’ve been thinking a lot about church lately. In the past month and a half, I’ve visited two different churches near me, and I’m still processing the experiences I’ve had at each. I’ve spent a lot of time in prayer over both, but I kept stressing over what was to come from all of this.

I began ruining what could be a beautiful time of learning, and my awareness of this has helped me to make progress in controlling where my thoughts go. I have been able to manage it to some degree (which is a miracle!), and I am very grateful for what the Lord is teaching me.

He knew, before I even learned about the existence of these churches or the people that are part of them, that this exists in my life for a reason. He desires for me to trust Him to work out the details, and to be faithful with what He’s showing me and where He’s leading me.

Even though I never expected to end up where I am now, I know that I am very safe in the middle of His will. There are still things that I don’t understand or know yet, but that’s okay – He does!

One of the most crucial parts of the Christian walk is learning to trust the Lord with what we cannot see.

I am thankful for the things that are unexpected blessings in my life. I’m thankful for friends I never thought I’d have, memories I didn’t know I’d experience, places I had no idea I’d see, and so much more. If my life only consisted of what I mapped out and attained myself, I wouldn’t be thankful for the little things, like watching the sunset, making my baby sister smile, or writing a card to a dear friend.

The Lord is teaching me about what truly matters in His eyes, and that’s an experience I’ll never get tired of living.

In conclusion, I’ve decided to live here – right in this moment. I will learn from the past instead of dwelling on it, and I will eagerly anticipate the future without obsessing over it. It’s a daily challenge to reside in the moment, but the outcome is absolutely worth it.

“Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed.” – Proverbs 16:3 AMPC

A Fresh Start

A Fresh Start

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:19 KJV

I’ve been thinking about making some big blogging changes for the past couple of weeks.

The last several years of my life have been spent helping my family. We’ve gone through things I never would have expected that we’d face, but I know for certain that the Lord planned it all for our good. I cannot describe the close bond all of us share now, something that wouldn’t exist had my teenage years been spent relaxing in the sun. On the contrary, we found ourselves facing hardships and emotional storms that threw us for loops on more than one occasion.

I’m only just now realizing that the survival mode that became my “normal” during those times of high stress is not who I am anymore.

The light at the end of the tunnel is illuminating my future.

I no longer feel like I’m holding on for dear life, which was a recurring trait of mine for quite a while. I now feel like I can once again see the good in things, show gratitude for all that the Lord has given me, and warmly embrace the beautiful opportunities He is setting in my path. The plans He has for me are slowly being revealed; the darkness and fog I felt trapped in when it came to my future have fully dissipated.

Life as the oldest child in a family of seven may be hectic at times, but I can definitely see that things are getting better. We’re all learning how to work together, continually love each other, and probably most importantly, to forgive one another for each and every one of our shortcomings.

That’s definitely something that I’m very grateful for at the moment – I have multiple times every day to learn how to love again. Forgiving myself for not getting it right every time, as well as accepting the idiosyncrasies and little faults of my siblings, is a huge life lesson I would have been denied had I grown up as an only child, or with only one sibling close in age to me.

It is because of all the beautiful things that have been happening in my life recently that I decided to take my blog along on these changes.

It was about time that I updated some things around here, from my ‘About’ page (which I haven’t done yet), to the design of my blog, to my post content and the series that I write. I want Dreaming of Guatemala to be a place where I can enjoy writing about my life, what I’m excited about and interested in, as well as all the things I’m learning about my Heavenly Father.

I am stronger because of all that I’ve been through. I value the relationships I have with my parents and siblings, and I desire to love spending time with them. Everything I’ve faced these last several years has drawn me even closer to the Lord, which I wouldn’t have thought possible … but He has used these difficulties for my good.

I’ll be writing new blog series, having a here-and-there posting schedule (i.e. I’ll post more or less depending on the week), focus on new things with my content, and hopefully make Dreaming of Guatemala an online space full of light, warmth, and positivity.

Here’s to new memories!

“Don’t stay in the boat when God’s calling you to step out on the water.”