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Being the mom of a child with autism can have its
challenges, to be sure, but I am constantly amazed by the wonderful blessings
and lessons learned from my very special daughter.

For the last ten years or so, each night we sat at dinner
together, our family of five. My husband Scott, sons Joseph and Jacob and
daughter Samantha say a very common blessing over the food. We started this practice
so that our children would be able to lead the blessing independently when they
were young, and it has since stuck around, even though our children are now 15,
13 and 8 years old respectively. The short familiar prayer goes like this:

“God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food. Amen.”

Our daughter Samantha, the one who is 13 years old and has
autism, started to say parts of the prayer a few years ago. Even though she can
say some words individually, she does not usually speak more than one or two
words at a time and certainly is not conversational. But like many children on
the autism spectrum, if she hears something enough, she will begin to repeat
it. So when, a few years ago, Samantha began to clearly pronounce, “A…men” we
were thrilled. Then came some of the other words and before long she could say
a good part of the prayer.

Although I was happy that Samantha had learned at least most
of this prayer, and that she even led it herself at times, I never really was convinced
that she fully comprehended the words. It just seemed that after years of
hearing the simple meal time blessing, she had learned by rote to say it

Then one recent Saturday morning I came into her room after a good night’s sleep. She had been suffering from a severe cold so the rest was quite welcome to us all. It had been at least a week since I had a full night’s sleep and I was very grateful to not have had to get up in the middle of the night.

As I often do, I leaned down next to my daughter to say good morning and give her a good morning hug. Out of nowhere, she gave me a huge smile and said simply, “God is great”. I waited a moment, expecting to hear the rest of the prayer by rote. Even though I had never heard her say our dinner blessing anywhere but at the table, I would normally expect her to finish the prayer once she started.

“What did you say?” I asked, just to make sure I heard her correctly.

Then one more time she stated emphatically, “God is great” and added another winning smile.  

Amazed, I hugged her again and left the room to get on with the morning chores. My thoughts kept going back to Samantha’s statement. I had been feeling a little sorry for myself the past week–a child with special needs, sleepless nights and the never ending work of taking care of all the kids during our holiday break were wearing me down. I was wondering, as I have many times before: how does a mom with a child with autism keep going?

 But then I got a wonderful little moment from God, a few well chosen words from my daughter who speaks so seldom. I had to agree. God is great. And I realized once again that I am blessed to be a part of Samantha’s world and blessed to be reminded of some of the simplest lessons. God is great and God is good. And I thank God for the many blessings in my life….especially for the one wrapped up in the special package of my beautiful daughter Samantha.

 Thanks be to God.

Karen Jackson is founder and director of Faith Inclusion Network of South Hampton Roads, VA , a non-profit organization dedicated to the better inclusion of people with disabilities and their families into faith communities.  To learn more about FIN, you can contact Karen Jackson at or go .

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