Families of children with autism-spectrum disorders need our support and encouragement, especially now.

Last week’s tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, is rekindling the debate about how best to care for children with mental and emotional disorders. And these families find themselves in the middle of it.

There’s no simple answer, especially where an autism-spectrum disorder is concerned. As the name implies, this is a spectrum of problems, and the same child’s symptoms can be more or less severe at different times in the life span. Their families try to provide as normal a life as possible, despite their changing demands and challenges. When that effort ends in tragedy, some well-meaning legislators argue that we should not allow these children to remain in the mainstream of public life; but not all autistic children are the same, and not all families are equally capable of caring for them.

AcquaintedI recommend Sheila Gosney’s book, Acquainted with Autism, for further insight into what we can do. Sheila’s teenage son Taylor has remained active in the public schools and the local church, despite the fact that he serious impairments in his ability to communicate with others. Sheila shares candidly what they’ve experienced in different phases of Taylor’s life, and she explains what the rest of us can do to encourage families like hers.

Only the informed heart can express true compassion for others. Sheila’s account can help us move in that direction.