A Letter to My Autistic Son on his 8th Birthday

Dear Jack,

You’re turning 8 today, and the snow is falling just for you. We don’t get much snow in the valley, but all of a sudden, it’s coming down, and you are right now glorying in the experience. It is a testament to you that none of us doubts the possibility that God sent the snow just for your birthday. Because you delight us, son, and it stands to reason that you delight the hosts of heaven even more.

While I hope the snow lingers a bit, it must not interrupt the mail, because your present is coming. The “American Spy Car.” You’ve been checking the mailbox for it every day. When it comes, you will do what you always do. You will line it up on the bookshelf with other toys of its genre–in this case, Lightning McQueen, Mater, and Finn McMissile–and then you’ll flap the daylights out of them all. And I will think of the autistic boy in Japan, who could not speak but learned to type. He wrote a book explaining why he does the things he does. Flapping? He explained that light can be so harsh sometimes, and the act of flapping filtered it. Calmed it. Made whatever he was looking at more beautiful.

Is that why you flap, son? To make things more beautiful?

There was a time when these questions depressed me, but they intrigue me now. You intrigue me. Especially after what happened last week.

You brought this book home from school. It was a red, cardboard book for very young children. Every page showed the same two characters: a big penguin and a little penguin. “I like it when we hold hands,” one page said, or “I like it when you tickle me.” You opened it up next to your mother and smiled brilliantly, pointing at the big penguin, then the little one:

“Jack and Daddy,” you said.

Mommy sent me a frantic message about it. When I came home, you were almost as eager to say it again as I was to hear it.

“Jack and Daddy.” It made you giggle. Your eyes were alight. And mine were welling up.

It’s not a simple thing, son, to understand relationship. This has been why your mom and I sometimes still get so sad about your experiences. The limitations of your autism have stopped your tongue, and severely hampered your connections with people. With us. And this is not the way it is supposed to be. It is wrong.

You have probably heard me say things like “God created us for relationship,” because I am a preacher, and I say that often. I believe it with all my heart, and that is the top reason why we fight for you. Because you are our son, and we want you to experience all you were meant to experience. And the most basic experience a child ought to feel is the love of his own family.

We didn’t know you felt it.

But then came, “Jack and Daddy.”

Did you understand what those words would mean to us, my boy? Did you say them on purpose, to assure us that you do know our love? That you get us?

I hope that you can read this someday, and understand the joy that comes with your overtures of affection. Just a glance from your eye does wild things to our hearts, son. And I am honored beyond words to be penguins with you.

25 replies
  1. Teresa
    Teresa says:

    Happy birthday Jack Jack from all the penguins who love you! Did you know penguins stick together for life? You have some amazing penguins in your family that love you very much. AND penguins flap to show joy just like you!

  2. Kathy Sheldon Davis
    Kathy Sheldon Davis says:

    I’m thanking God for penguins and authors and illustrators and writers and daddys and mommys and little boys right now! And cell phones. And the internet. And his love that never ends nor ceases to amaze.

  3. Florien
    Florien says:

    Happy Birthday, Jack!!! What a wonderful gift. Snow on your birthday and the well rooted love you share with your family.

    Jason, I saw your posting on Facebook. Can I subscribe to your site? Send my love to your family.

    • jason
      jason says:

      Oh, thank you Florien, I’m so glad you saw this 🙂 You played such a wonderful part of Jack’s life.
      Yes, you can subscribe by putting your email address in the sidebar where it says “Subscribe to Blog via email.”

  4. Doreen
    Doreen says:

    My heart is with you, Jack and Jason. Miss and love you all dearly. Thanks for sharing with us Jason, Jack is blessed, as you are too. (I always cry reading your stories, but this one got a few more tears.)
    As always, love and prayers.
    Mom and Grammy

  5. Grace Audet
    Grace Audet says:

    Priceless-both the connection and your article. Blessings. (I just read this, though Sara had shared with me on the phone.)

  6. Rev. Randy DeLong
    Rev. Randy DeLong says:

    Happy Belated Birthday …Jack,
    This is your secret admirer:) I’ll help you write a letter of hope and promise to your wonderful Dad from your heart.
    Dear Dad,
    My secret admirer and I am writing this letter to you. You are the best Dad in the world! You have displayed your love for me SO MUCH… you must really love God! Please never be disappointed that God picked me to be that special person that points to the Grace of His Son. I pray that I make Jesus proud. I look forward to my calling He gave me to draw people to depending on His love like I depend on your love:) He has created me to glorify his son! This is great news daddy! He has called both of us to preach his love..compassion..forgiveness….and HUMILITY to those that are not so blessed and fortunate as us daddy. Though we will minister His love in different ways we are all special tools of His BIG KINGDOM:) Daddy…I am looking forward to being God’s preaching penguins with you for life:)
    I love you daddy!!
    Jack………….:)

  7. Joseph
    Joseph says:

    Thanks for your perseverance, Jason. Know that there are lots more who read what you write and are touched by it than express themselves here. Bless you and the family.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] and meltdowns, the boy still draws strength and peace from his penguins. It started with the original Jack and Daddy book. He remembers it as well as I do. It’s why he has been keeping this new book close to him, and […]

  2. […] room. It was also the day after his birthday. The boy remembered what happened two years earlier when he turned eight: snow fell on the valley. The angels had gifted him a white blanket of wonder that had lasted several days. It was a present […]

  3. […] 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 […]

  4. […] came “Jack and Daddy.” Then came a video sent home from school a few weeks ago. Jack was answering his teacher’s […]

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