Different not less
By Laura DeBarge
You hear it all of the time, God places people in our lives for a specific purpose. For some people, understanding the purpose can seem daunting but not in the case of Matty. God’s handiwork began in April 2015 when my husband John, lovingly referred to as Coach, met a young boy at Red Lerelle’s. There was something about the boy that intrigued Coach, and as luck would have it, Matty’s parents were looking for a caregiver to help with his extra needs. Coach thought I would be a perfect match for Matty and his family.
In the beginning, we both needed time to figure each other out, but it did not take long for me to realize that we matched each other in more ways than one. We both struggle with life altering diagnoses that can make life difficult.
Matty struggles with a developmental disability called Autism Spectrum Disorder. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that people living with autism often have problems with social, emotional, and communication skills. Currently, there is no known cure and no known cause; however, there are many different levels and factors that create the spectrum. The CDC reports that in 2014 about one in fifty-nine children have been identified with autism. Matty’s lack of communication skills has created a big obstacle for others to connect with and understand him.
I battle a mood disorder called Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which in the past has been debilitating and made it hard for me to connect with others. According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, generalized anxiety disorder affects 6.8 million adults, with women being twice as likely to be affected. I know that I am not alone in my struggle, and feel God’s grace every morning knowing Matty is waiting to give me more purpose to fight against the symptoms that make life difficult.
My time with Matty has allowed my heart to be open to God’s will. One day God spoke to me and prompted me to write a children’s book. I wanted the world to know more about autism and acceptance. My book, “There Once was a Boy—Autism: Different, Not Less,” was beautifully illustrated by my daughter-in-law, Janohah. Janohah’s art brings Matty’s day to life. The book has been such a success that Matty and I have been invited to classes throughout Acadiana for special readings. Spreading God’s message of acceptance has been so much fun for us both.
When we are not at book readings, we enjoy walking dogs (like Xanadue pictured) and shopping at local thrift stores searching for treasures. A huge part of our day is still spent at the place that began our journey, Red Lerelle’s, where Matty can be found with his favorite superhero, Coach. Coach and Matty have a bond that is indescribable, but can be felt from all that know them.
People often tell me that Matty, and his family are so lucky to have me in his life, but if the truth be told, I am the lucky one. God presented a beautiful human to bring my purpose to the world—different is NOT less.
“And we know that in all things God work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
— Romans 8:28 NIV