In celebration of National Autism Awareness Month, Ambassador International spotlights author D’Ann Renner and her book Dancing From the Shadows that discusses her firsthand experience with having her child diagnosed with autism. During National Autism Awareness Month, D’Ann’s book is available on Amazon.com or ChristianBook.com for only $3.99 for your eReader. In the United States alone, an estimated 1 out of 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls are diagnosed with autism according to austismspeaks.org. Renner provides inspiration for parents everywhere who experience similar difficulties and pleasures of having a child with autism.
Ambassador: What were the main signs from your child that ultimately lead to the autism diagnosis?
D’Ann Renner: He didn’t play with toys typically- he’d spin the wheels of a toy truck without doing anything else. He would spend hours spinning a mixing bowl or watching a ceiling fan. He didn’t make much eye contact, was speech-delayed, and didn’t seem to feel pain.
Ambassador: How did you find peace with God after the autism diagnosis?
D’Ann Renner: I was angry and depressed at first, because I knew God could heal him, but wasn’t choosing to do so. I wondered how I had so displeased God that He would choose to punish my son. That’s just plain bad theology! Eventually, I came to the place that I could trust that God loved my son more than I did, and had a good plan for his life. Autism is not a punishment. It’s a challenge, but it’s also a gift. We all have challenges that God can turn into gifts if we allow Him.
Ambassador: Do you still struggle with finding peace? How do you deal with those moments?
D’Ann Renner: Yes, especially at transition times- like entering high school, or when other kids are getting their learner’s permits. At those times, I see a Grand Canyon sized gap between reality and what my expectations were. I deal with it by reminding myself: God is Sovereign, God is good. Only He knows how beautifully our lives are being woven into the tapestry of eternity.
Ambassador: After immersing yourself into the special needs world for autism, what information do you wish was more widely known?
D’Ann Renner: Children with autism DO want to have social relationships. They DO have senses of humor. One just has to work harder to discover how to interact with them, and it takes time and patience. And- kids with autism, even if they are non-verbal, understand a lot more of what is being said and what is happening, and they can be badly hurt by it.
Ambassador: What similarities do you share with the main character in Dancing From the Shadows?
D’Ann Renner: I did have a successful career in marketing, although not nearly as brilliant as Tori’s. We did adopt children from Bulgaria, and I’ve experienced many of the incidents she does in the book, although I fictionalized them and merged them with the experiences of others. THERE IS NO SIMILARITY BETWEEN MY HUSBAND BRUCE AND TORI’S HUSBAND PHILLIP! Bruce is a wonderful, supportive husband, but that’s not true for many parents with special needs children. The character Phillip was based on the ex-spouses (male and female) of many friends and acquaintances.
Ambassador: Do you have any advice for parents who recently received the autism diagnosis?
D’Ann Renner: I’m going to go against the norm here, so understand this is just my feeling. It’s more important, in my opinion, to concentrate on expanding the child’s ability to think flexibly and communicate than it is to teach rote skills. I feel we concentrated so much in the early years on getting Luke to speak that I neglected working on his desire to communicate, and expanding his ability to think in a flexible way. If I had it to do over again, I’d embrace more therapies like Floor Time, Relational Development Intervention, Neurodevelopment and programs like the SonRise protocol, rather than ABA. But that is just my opinion and many wonderful parents disagree with me.