I got an invite to a thanksgiving church service. One I would never miss. Who would miss Ryan’s thanks giving service?
Well, maybe you don’t know Ryan, so let me give you a picture. Ryan is the person who makes you feel at home in their house. I sometimes stay for years without visiting them, which of course is reason enough to develop that stranger feeling.
Not with Ryan. He will talk to you about football, food, School. Anything. He is entertaining too and processes a photographic memory. The last time I went to visit, he asked me about things I got from China. I had even forgotten the details of the 2008 trip to Nanjing. This was seven years later. Yet he still remembered.
Ryan is the 20 year old son to the Obutus. He has been autistic since he was a toddler. His family has gone through a lot in the process of raising him. From rejection by schools to having to look for him on several occasions when he got lost. In all these, his mother says, “God kept him safe”.
I lived with the family when I was doing my high school exams. Ryan’s mom happened to be my Home science teacher. Then, I didn’t understand why a seven year old could not talk coherently. I still remember the song he used to sing me though.
I later came to learn that he was autistic. In fact, his mother has a passion for raising awareness on children with special needs.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.
Here was a family thanking God for giving them the grace to raise a child with special needs. Not complaining, but giving thanks.
Ryan sat for his GCSE last year and performed well enough to be awarded a certificate. Now he is in college studying hospitality. He also has a unique gift of mental calculations, he doesn’t need a calculator.
One thing that came out clearly through the whole service, was that everyone was praising Ryan. From his neighbor who has developed friendship with him due to his routine of paying them a visit daily at 2-4pm, to his cousins who said that he is the most honest individual they have ever met.
What touched me was his parents saying that Ryan has been a blessing to their family. And thanking his younger brother Nicky for missing out on a huge part of growing up, while ensuring that Ryan coped with his environment.
I greeted Ryan on this thanks giving day. Ryan, how are you? “I am blessed”, he answered with the familiar smile that he wears.