A Letter to My Autistic Son on His 7th Birthday

Dear Jack,

I’m writing this letter in faith that one day you will be able to read it, understand it, and forgive us for the mistakes we are making with you.

Tomorrow is your birthday. Seven years ago, I was watching the first quarter of the Super Bowl and your mom’s water broke. I joked that it meant something. That you wanted to come out and watch the Steelers beat the Seahawks. I took it for granted that we would someday watch football games together and practice fade routs in the back yard.

Of course, that didn’t happen. You were diagnosed at three, and at the time, you didn’t want to be with us at all. We got lots of help form those sweet ladies in Eugene. You remember driving into that special school for those two years? Those were rough days for all of us. You would scream when I dropped you off, and I would bolt off to the van before your teachers could see that I was swallowing back tears. And then, as soon as I could compose myself, I would go sit down at Starbucks and fold myself into my laptop. For three hours, I would work and work and forget that my dear boy was lost inside himself. And the work would go on when we got home.

Forgive me, son, but I didn’t want to leave that Forgetting Place.

For more than two years, I lived there. I was a coward behind that screen, and I know you could feel it.

Over time, thanks mostly to your relentless mother and to those sweet teachers I mentioned, you started to see us again. You didn’t say much (you still don’t), but you could at least see us. And you decided you loved us. I could tell from the way you ran to our bedroom when you got scared at 2 am. Night was always pitch dark in that house, but you ran full speed.

I think that is when I started to wake up, too.

We play together every day now. You yell out our names (we waited a long time to hear you say “mommy” and “daddy!”), then turn and sprint away while we run after you with tickles in hand. The game would never end if you had your way, because you love repitition. You eat the same snacks, watch the same movies, wear the same clothes, and you never get tired of any of it. No, you find glory in the mundane.

You are full of more delight than any person I’ve ever known.

And while we love that about you, we are perplexed by it, too. Sometimes, your attachments are so surprising and so strong that we feel we must curb them for your own good. Like this weekend with the can of Bush Beans. You didn’t want to eat them, you wanted to carry the can to bed with you like a teddy bear. Your mom and I, we let you do it the first night, but then we said no and you got really upset. Maybe we were wrong. But like your mom said, “beans are for eating.”

We want you to be gloriously happy, but as your parents, part of our job is to teach you how to relate to the world that spins around you. We want you to learn to speak and listen; to read and write; to love God and love yourself; to make friends and discover passions. We were created for this: to know one another.

Jack, can I tell you something ugly?

I don’t want you to turn seven yet. Because the older you get the more ground I feel like we are losing. We cannot teach you fast enough or well enough. People in the checkout aisle try to talk to you now, and I usually jump in to explain your condition so they understand that you aren’t ignoring them. I want them to know you’re a good boy. It’s not your fault. If anyone is falling short, it isn’t you.

My dear boy, I want you to have a future in this world, and even though right now I admit the future scares me, we won’t give up. I may feel like going back to that Forgetting Place sometimes, but I won’t live there ever again. Your mother and I, your big sisters and even your little brothers, we will keep after you: talking and praying and getting advice and praying some more. And I trust that by the time you read this, you will understand that whether we succeeded or failed as parents, we at least ran after you when you called.


(Update, 9/22/2015: I’ve had a ton of recent traffic on this article, even though I wrote it 2 1/2 years ago. Jack has come a long way in the last couple of years. Both of us have. For a more updated picture of my journey as an autism dad, here is Jack’s 8th birthday letter (there are pandas involved, so… score!) and here is the one I wrote for him this year, in which there are great white sharks. Kind of. Thanks for visiting! -jh)

42 replies
  1. My Rivers Ride
    My Rivers Ride says:

    I can relate so well but my child is my daughter. She is now 12 years old and I was told she wouldn’t live past 5 years old. She walks like I was told she wouldn’t . She doesn’t talk yet but I learned so much from her. When she goes into her own world I can see why. It is not stressful in there like it is in our world. She doesn’t go into her own world….. as much as she used to at least. Enjoy the time that you have together to be a family. That is the important part in life! Hang in there you all will get through it!

    Reply
  2. philipandxotchil
    philipandxotchil says:

    Thank you for writing this. Jack will read this one day. And meanwhile, we are all touched and challenged by your realness. You’re not the only one who struggles to not lose himself in that forgetting place.

    Reply
  3. darrenpenny
    darrenpenny says:

    Jason, your heart for Jack is a gift to see. Thanks for sharing. You are a reflection of the truest Father we each share. Cheers to the Journey.

    Reply
  4. Brenda
    Brenda says:

    I have to tell you I cried reading this…..I too am parenting a child with Autism and each day he shows me the blessings God has to offer. He is now 12 and in a mainstream class in a cyber charter school….he has grown leaps and bounds and has surpassed everyone’s expectations. Somedays we take things one day at time sometimes its an hour at a time. There are days I take a shower so I can cry and the tears won’t be seen….but there are many more days that I am reminded of how far he has come. If anything parenting my son has taught me tolerance, patience, and a love like no other! I agree with the post earlier Jack WILL read this one day and he will see he had a father that loved him

    Reply
  5. Linda
    Linda says:

    Yes do not give up on your children. we all have our troubles we get to endure. seems like God knows exactly who to give the children who need some extra special love and patience to. My niece has been ph ysically disabled her entire 35 years and her mom and dad have been beside her every step of the way. Yes one day your son will read your letter.God bless you.

    Reply
  6. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    I have a ten year old, same thing… came on superbowl Sunday!! He has autism and I have done every therapy known to man, massage, speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, behavioral specialists and special classes until he was 5. He is emerging and just recently I am seeing signs of hope that he may one day lead a relatively normal life. Best wishes to you and your family. Keep it up… its exhausting but well worth it!! <3

    Reply
  7. Mark Casper
    Mark Casper says:

    For my son at 7, I could have written much the same letter.

    Now at 12, when “experts” said he’d never progress beyond a 1st grade education … he is an Honor Roll 5th grade (albeit modified schedule) student. Today we had a lengthy discussion about the rise of Nazi Germany and Chamberlain’s miscalculation with Czechoslovakia. And he knew more than I did about the subject.

    He wouldn’t be classified by many as “normal” … But to me he is so much better than normal ever could be.

    He is even starting Little League in a couple of weeks. Not exactly the kind you and I played in … but he’s playing BASEBALL! Oh, BTW, HE asked ME to let him play.

    The fact that you have worked so hard and loved so much and still the only thing you seem to see in yourself is that somehow you aren’t doing enough? … That tells me just the opposite.

    I understand how you feel, I felt that way too. But, you will soon see the fruits of you labor and your love. Your son is very lucky to have you for a dad.

    God Bless.

    Reply
  8. ybawany
    ybawany says:

    Dear Jason,

    This is such an emotional piece. I’m sure your son will be proud of you when he reads this. You and your family are in my prayers.

    Take care and have a great day!

    Best,
    Yousuf

    Reply
  9. linda baldry
    linda baldry says:

    what an inspuration you are to all who have read this, your family are very special and through God you get your strength – bless you all and thanks for sharing. (foster mum to boy with autisim)

    Reply
  10. AutismWhisperer
    AutismWhisperer says:

    Hi Jason, I’m Mark’s wife. I just wanted to add my 2 cents worth & tell you that there is definately much to hope for. . . ditto what my dh said in his post. Our son Mitri never ceases to amaze us with his progress. You’ll find my FB Page here: https://www.facebook.com/AutismWhisperer?ref=hl and info on our blog which will give you in part our backstory. I did post your post on my page (that’s where my dh read it & subsequently commented). Looking forward to following your story & giving you an encouragement we can, having been there & done that! Our son is now 12. Blessings to you & yours,
    Dannie Casper

    Reply
    • Jason Hague
      Jason Hague says:

      I just read your blog, Dannie. Very cool! I look forward to more installments of your story, especially considering how far Mitri has come. My wife and I were blogging regularly on our story, but we stopped a year ago. We are hoping to relaunch it any day now.

      I look forward to connecting with you guys further. Thanks for the encouragement!

      Reply
  11. jennifer
    jennifer says:

    hi thanks for sharing ,its hard to explain how the little things to everybody else ,are huge steps for out children ,my son is 13 now ,and i have great hope for his future .
    jennifer

    Reply
  12. Katia Melo Napoli
    Katia Melo Napoli says:

    I believe that your love, commitment and choosing each day to take care of him has already made ​​changes in the life of your handsome son.
    Continue and believe that he will read your letter and be proud of the Father and family that he has.
    Ps 94:19.
    Katia Napoli

    Reply
  13. Jenny Svetec
    Jenny Svetec says:

    Jason, you are courage in motion as Jack is grace in time. I pray your family will see breakthrough after breakthrough with beautiful Jack. I trust that God bends down especially close to guard and protect your valiant persevering family. I pray Jack knows God’s tenderness in those long deep silent places, that one day he will tell you about the journey home and together you will both rejoice in the gift of a seeing, hearing conversation. Our hearts ache with you and we trust in God’s grace and power for you and Jack even as his life is celebrated so tenderly here, with that father heart of astounding honesty and ferocious passion for your son’s wholeness.

    Reply
    • jason
      jason says:

      Jenny, forgive my late response. This is a beautiful sentiment. Thank you, thank you for your kind words. I love your blog title, by the way. Very subtle. I’ll check it out.

      Reply
  14. suzen bernard
    suzen bernard says:

    How beautiful! we as special parents know a joy and a heartache like no others. We were gifted with our precious children yet find them to be our teachers! God bless all of us!

    Reply
  15. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    Oh how blessed this child is to have you for his daddy! I’m praying for you and your family, right now, that you will be filled with the joy, strength and wisdom of The Lord.

    Reply
  16. TLS
    TLS says:

    My daughter turned 8 last week and wow do I get this part. “the older you get the more ground I feel like we are losing.” If she could just stay little and give me more time…..

    Reply

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