Roadmap to Faith

by Deborah Greene
Temple Beth Tikvah, Roswell, GA
Originally posted on
Puzzled: Raising a Child With Autism & Other Pieces of Family Life

“The whole world is a narrow bridge, but the main thing is not to fear.” (Reb Nachman of Bratslav)

Navigating life on the autism spectrum involves a series of long and winding roads, uphill climbs and every now and again, a bit of smooth sailing. Unfortunately, you don’t receive any kind of roadmap when you arrive in “Holland.” Sure, there are lots of people there to point you in any number of directions, but you often feel like you are simply flying by the seat of your pants, trying to find your way.

Yael has faced many obstacles on the spectrum.

Some of the hardest roads to travel are those that leave you feeling emotionally lost. You climb to the top of the worry hill, then coast down the road of relief. You turn to push your child forward, then fear that you should hold them back. You gaze upon the street of dreams and wonder if you should even walk there. You try to look ahead down hope street, but first you must cross over your fears. You journey onward with your child knowing that for every step forward, somewhere around the bend, there will be a step back. It is a tiring journey, fraught with emotional pitfalls and detours. You have moments of sheer joy, optimism and pride followed by moments of angst, sadness and doubt.

And while there is no roadmap to this journey, I do believe there is for each of us, a compass. It is faith that can serve as our compass; faith in people, in friends, in our children and in ourselves. I also believe that the true guide on our journey is our faith in God.  I have turned to God often during my life on the spectrum. When I am depleted, I ask for strength. When I am full of fear, I ask God to help me find hope. When I am out of patience, I ask God to help me dig down deeper and find just a little more. When I focus only on the struggles, I ask God to remind me of the blessings. And when I have lost my way, I ask God to be my compass. Sometimes my tears serve as my prayer, other times it is my smile. Sometimes I lash out in anger and other times I sing with joy. And sometimes these are the words that I share with God as I cross the narrow bridge…

A Prayer for a Parent of a Special Needs Child and for All Parents of All Children

(From the book “Talking to God” by Rabbi Naomi Levy)

Help me, God, to embrace my child as she is. Teach me how to raise her in love, joy and confidence. Show me how to help her realize all of the gifts You have placed inside her. Prevent me from pressuring her to become what she can never be or does not want to be. When I find myself mourning for what she is not, open my eyes to the holy blessing that she is. When feelings of jealousy surface toward other parents, soften my heart, open my soul. When my patience wears thin, calm me with Your comforting presence. When I feel as if I have no more to give, be my strength, God, abiding and unending. When I hover over my child too closely, remind me to step back and make room for her to fly. If she should fail, teach me how to encourage her to try again. When others are cruel to her, place words of wisdom and comfort on my tongue and place fortitude in her heart. Help her, God. Watch over her. Protect her from harm. Shield her from frustration and hurt. Fill her with pride, God. Teach her to stand up for herself.  Grant her good health. Bless her with true and enduring friends. Nurture her awesome potential, God; let it flourish and become manifest. Let her be happy, God. Surround her with Your love. I thank You God, for giving me this very child. She is a gift of God, a precious child, a rare soul, a miracle. She is Mine. Amen.

Our future rabbi~a child of faith


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2 Responses to “Roadmap to Faith”

  1. avatar
    Jordan Friedman Reply July 6, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    This was a touching piece. I am always interested to read the experiences and reflections of parents with children on the spectrum, as well as the teachers and other professionals who work with such children. Most airtime, printer ink, and web/blog space devoted to autism spectrum issues deals with the more severe cases, but in reality the actual experiences of affected families and school communities vary tremendously. I myself am technically “on the spectrum”, but unlike what seems to be the case with Yael, I am only slightly affected–in fact, I’m sure nobody would ever be able to tell unless I told them. After a rough and rocky early childhood, the social skills that had escaped me for so long seemed to emerge on their own, without my having to be “taught” to synthesize them. The reason I’m writing this is because I feel blessed to be in a unique position–I am fully entrenched in the “neurotypical” world, and function on a “normal” level, and yet have the mind and “inner workings” of someone on the spectrum. I know how these kids work–and I can empathize greatly with the social awkwardness, anxiety, sensory overload, and hypersensitivity. I feel that I should somehow become an advocate for such people, and help to articulate to the wider community what they, in many instances, cannot themselves put into words. Thank you for sharing your reflections on your experience and that wonderful prayer. Such pleas for strength and respite from the cruelty and misunderstanding of others strongly resemble my own prayers when I’m having a rough day. Although during my roughest years I was not a very religious or spiritual person, I have become one as the anger from years of misery and mis-understanding slowly subsides. I am learning to forgive what was done to me by peers and teachers in Junior High and High School (I just finished my first year of College), and my new-found passion for Judaism has helped me heal. I’m glad you have found relief also.

  2. avatar

    As a physical therapist who works with special needs kids, I find this most comforting and inspiring.

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