Jake entered our lounge and lifted his tennis shoe to his ear and announced, “I can hear the playground!”
The declaration was completely out of context to what was happening in the room at the time, so much so that John, Micah, Caleb, and I burst into laughter.
Where had that phrase just come from?
And then, as Jake witnessed the guffawing effect he had just caused, he repeated the statement again with his tennis shoe still up against his right ear, “I can hear the playground!”
We all laughed again. And Jake said, “Good! I wanted to make you laugh!”
Jake picks up on different phrases from time to time. They become the ‘favorite’ phrase of the day, week, or month. Our family becomes the beneficiaries of hearing Jake relay different phrases and stories over and over and over again. Jake’s latest threads of speech center on invoking a bit of humor and fun. The first few times, that works. By the hundredth repetition, the phrase or story has met with varying levels of acceptance and tolerance in the Witherow household. However, Jake won’t move on from a phrase or story until he is ready. It has to reach a particular point of saturation. For Jake, one might consider this to be categorized as a behavior indicative of autism. Autistic children often demonstrate repetitive behaviors or use echolalia as part of their day to day living to help them make sense of their world.
As I consider this behavior though, I contend that each of us repeats things over and over and over again that we enjoy.
A new song is repeatedly played on our favorites; along with other feel-good songs.
A new outfit is worn as often as we can get away with it.
A new joke is told to different individuals and groups in order to deliver the fun punch-line again and again.
A new book is read from cover to cover and can’t be put down, and then picked up to be read all over again.
Even in a Facebook community, Whatsapp group, or Twitter feed, when we like something – we repost or forward to keep the thread going and going and going.
We repeat what we like.
We repeat what we’re comfortable with.
We repeat what affirms us.
We repeat what helps us.
We repeat what we stand for.
Our repetitive behavior may not be as overt and unabashed as Jake’s repetitive words at times, but it’s there nonetheless.
We repeat what is important to us.
This is what Jake is doing too.
And if you listen to him and embrace his words, the intent of his phrases and stories are pure and golden.
His phrases are funny.
His phrases are meaningful.
His phrases are kind.
His phrases are uplifting.
And sometimes, Jake’s favorite phrases center upon the word of God.
There is so much out there on the topic of autism. And although I took a number of university classes to understand this neuro-developmental condition more, all I can really speak about is what I continue to learn about and observe in my two sons.
Yesterday, Micah, Jake, Caleb, and I read these words as part of our Friday morning bible study in the Happy Blue School:
But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; New International Version Isaiah 43: 1-3a
What amazing verses!
I’ve read them before though.
I bet some of you have as well.
Don’t we read and re-read verses that mean something special to us?
These verses mean something to me because they affirm my children’s worth, purpose, and future on this earth and for eternity. My God created and formed my children – even with Jake and Caleb’s autism in His mind. My God calls my children, His own. He knows them by their names. And no matter what is ahead – no matter what difficulties present themselves in my children’s lives – my children will pass through them all; under the care and protection of their Lord and Savior.
This is something worth being repeated!!!
There is no doubt that this world has troubles. Big time troubles. However, we don’t have to set our eyes and hearts on the challenges. Instead, we set our eyes and our hearts upon our God to help us pass through those challenges and seek to find the humor, the kindness, the joy, and the significance in them.
Jake and his brother Caleb help our family do that each and every day. Micah, does too.
Sure, Jake and Caleb both repeat stuff. Jake does it a lot more than his younger brother. However, they’re only doing what the rest of us do. They repeat what they love. They repeat what brings them joy. They repeat what is fun and heart-warming. They repeat what they want to understand.
Jake and Caleb repeat that they love us, love their God, and love others too.
They repeat the important stuff.
And I will too.