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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Guestpost: "Friendly...To a Fault?" by Joanne Sher

Please Welcome Guest Blogger Joanne Sher.

Friendly. That's often the first word people think of when they talk about my mildly autistic son. He loves to talk to, and visit with, everyone and anyone. He's the kind of kid who says hi to each and every person he passes at the store—and wonders why they don't do the same. On occasion, he'll ask if he can roll down the car window so he can say hi to the people on the street as we zoom by. He loves to give hugs. His favorite part of our church service is when the associate pastor says, “Let's greet one another.” He flies out of the pew and walks to every person he can reach in those few moments, shaking hands with a smile.

It's delightful to watch, but it also makes me sad, and nervous. You see, my son is 10 years old, just entering the 5th grade. His behavior is cute, but it isn't exactly age-appropriate. I know he has eyes rolled at him. I know some kids won't play with him because of how “childish” he is. I know he is too trusting of strangers. I know he doesn't yet have the skills to develop deep friendships. And, perhaps most heartbreaking, I know that he is becoming less and less “blissfully ignorant” of how others see him.

My son has other struggles too—higher-level thinking skills, focus, patience, self-control—but the social issues are the ones that make my heart ache the most. He so wants to be liked. And he has come an extremely long way since he was first diagnosed several years ago. He has learned from his school's incredible special education staff how to make conversation, proper facial expressions for his emotions, and dozens of other things I was never taught – because they came naturally to me.

Though I fear that some day he will “be friendly” to the wrong person, or be taken advantage of because of his naivete, I know that his “childlikeness” can be a huge blessing, both to the people who know him, and the Lord.

A couple years ago, there was a boy who was picking on him, and causing some problems in school. Both of them were taken into the principal's office to talk about exactly what happened. My son, who was not at all at fault, sat with this classmate who was trying to get him in trouble, and asked this “troublemaker” if  he went to church. When he said no, my son invited him to our church. Talk about loving your enemies – and faith like a child.

Every child is a gift from God. Their idiosyncrasies, struggles, and talents are part of what makes each of them unique. God has blessed us with our son, and we are anxious to watch how He uses him, and his disability, to make a difference and bring glory to God.

About Joanne Sher
I was raised in Southern California but am now living in West Michigan with my wonderful husband Marc, and our two kids - Andrew is 10 and Annika is 7. I was raised in the Jewish faith, but have since become a follower of Christ.

I love to write and have had assorted stories published in a handful of magazines and a few Christian writing anthologies. I'm currently working on a non-fiction book about God's workings through my husband's health issues. Tentatively titled Ailing Body, Nourished Soul, the first chapter received honorable mention in's Page Turner First Chapter contest. At the moment, it is being considered by a literary agent.

My other passion is God's Word, which I find can meet my every need, if I'll just do more than read it. God has sustained me and my family through so much, and it is my ministry (among others) to share that sustenance, and God's work, with all who will listen. 

Visit Joanne's website at:


Thank you SO much, Jennifer, for allowing me to share my son's story. I so appreciate it. (And I can't believe it - but I made a mistake in my bio! Could you change my kids' ages to 7 and 10, please? Oooops!)My son is SUCH a blessing!

Done. And you're welcome. Thank you for the courage to share your story!


Jo, this brought tears to my eyes. Your mom's heart for your son shines through. My own dear son, Joseph, has Asperger's Syndrome, and he, too, struggles with how to be friendly. Only in his case, he is so reserved, we had to teach him to come and greet others. Your son IS a wonderful young person! And I believe the Lord will bless him for his open heart. Thanks for sharing this touching story.

Dee, My daughter is also reserved. Everything depends on her mood swings regarding how well she responds to people and other kids her age. We're working on her social skills and confidence building, but some days I'm at a loss as to what to do for her.

What a beautiful story! And my prayer is that the mom's of the other children in your son's school will teach compassion and open-armed acceptance of all God's children, so that your son will feel cherished.

Simply BEAUTIFUL, Joanne. Because I work with these wonderful kids I can appreciate what you wrote so much more.

Their compassion and 'goodness' overflows. My protective instinct jumps out and I want to fight the world to help them keep this gentleness of spirit and honesty. Oh Joanne, if there were more parents like you who celebrated the beauty in the way their child processes the world!

Fabulous post! Realistic concern, but absolutely beautiful way to share your son's story.

Oh, Jo, why a beautiful post! What a wonderful blessing our children are! Love shines through your words!

Joanne, this is incredibly inspiring. Thank you for sharing your family's story, because it truly is everyone's story—no situation affects only one member. I have seen this time and again in the special needs families that I have worked with. You are an inspiration—as is your delightful son! And watch how Annika develops into the Godly young woman God wants her to be, in part because of her wonderful big brother. Thanks for being such a loving mom and a great example for all of us.

@Dee - Andrew started out completely without affection - he rarely gave hugs and hardly talked at all. Then after hubby got sick, he went totally the other way. You KNOW I'm praying for Joseph.

@Jennifer - the compassion Andrew gets at school is amazing. Not every kid, of course, but he is SO accepted there for just who he is. It absolutely blesses my heart. I KNOW it has a lot to do with the school - which is a charter school with a moral focus.

@Pepper - I SO wish he stayed blissfully ignorant of those around him. Thanks for the encouragement, and for your passion for special needs kids.

@Rita and @Elaine - Thank you so very much for your kind words and encouragement. You are both SO special to me.

You made me cry! I'm reminded of my mentally disabled mother so often waving hi and smiling at people,while I would see them snicker and make fun of her as soon as she passed by. It's certainly changed the way I treat people as an adult. Oh, that we who think we are so mature could realize how small we really are! Love this story, Joanne.