- - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

When Thelma Williams first discovered that her son Gerald had been born with autism, she began praying and never stopped.

Five decades later my mother, now 88, still gets up each morning at 5 a.m. and recites the Lord’s Prayer over my brother. She prays for his protection, for she must send him out each day to face an uncertain world. Though Gerald cannot speak a word of English, he emits a series of grunts, “gah … gah … gah,” in reverent acknowledgement.

Gerald is now a 55-year-old man who is beloved in his community. Though he cannot speak, he attends church every Sunday. He is a big fan of gospel music and becomes truly excited whenever it comes on the radio. He spends almost all of his free time watching televised sermons and gospel performances. By all accounts he is not merely mimicking the words and actions but truly feels the presence of God. It shows in his actions and how he treats people. He is exceedingly kind and almost always in high spirits. He is a balm to those who know and love him.

Gerald attends a special school every day, as he has done for the past 25 years. The school is dedicated to people with autism and teaches techniques that help with socialization and communications skills. It teaches them to use their limited skills to communicate a broad range of emotions and needs, because often people with the disability can experience pain or discomfort and not show the usual signs that those without the condition might exhibit.

Despite these limitations in cognition and communication, a wonderful spirit has evolved. My mother’s prayers are answered in the way only God could answer them; in perfect time, and perfect in manner.

Armstrong Williams is executive editor of American CurrentSee and station group owner of NBC25 WEYI in Flint, Mich. and CW21 WWMB in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

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