It was June of 2016 when my son Jacob was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This pinnacle moment would change the course of our family’s lives forever. Shortly after he was diagnosed, I took a month to process. My whole life had just changed with 6 words —Your son has Autism Spectrum Disorder. I felt weird, strange, and isolated. I withdrew from play dates and social gatherings the rest of that summer. I grappled with feeling alone and not knowing where to turn.
At the end of August on a hot and muggy night, an idea hit me while driving home in my minivan from Target — to create an online campaign showing how individuals with special needs were just like their peers. My mourning had been morphed into positive action. There was no reason to feel bad about Jacob. He certainly didn’t feel bad, so why should I? Jacob is just the way he should be! God made Jacob perfect!
My feelings of sadness came from my vision of how I thought things should be. This stemmed from the life I selfishly wanted; I didn’t trust that God had something so much more in store for our family!
I began my global campaign, Project: Just Like You, to raise awareness and show how all people are the same. I was both excited and nervous. What if it didn’t catch on? Would people want to feature their child? Would I be able to fill daily stories?
Parents quickly got on board! I found myself talking to various local groups. Month after month, new interviews took place in the media sharing my mission. Parents strongly affirmed that their child, who once suffered from being bullied or ridiculed, felt good about themselves once they saw themselves featured on our social media campaign. Some parents would write telling me they had tears in their eyes.
I quickly took on writing, speaking, and starting a non-profit. I went on to have exclusive interviews with prominent figures in the special needs community and work with very large organizations, serving on the Young Professional Board for the Special Olympics of Virginia, and being accepted into Virginia’s Partner in Policy Making, which after completion will grant the opportunity to lobby in Washington for laws pertaining to the Special Needs community.
God pulled me out of my comfort zone with Jacob and set me on a path to help thousands of lives and give hope, with a very simple, yet profound message — please see my child as anyone else — see them as a human. Please treat them with dignity. Recognize they like the same activities as your child. Because when you see someone as a person, you strip away fear, prejudice, and stigmas. You are left with a soul, a perfect creation, and that is where friendship takes place.
God takes our pain and suffering and replaces it with growth and strength. I had to experience this to grow as a person, as a mom, and as a woman. We must accept that in our place of humility, we grow closer to Christ. It is in the unknown and darkest moments, that the most abundance of life springs forth. Because He does indeed make beautiful things out of our mess and everything works for the greater good.
And as for Jacob, he wakes up every morning with a smile and lives each day with enthusiasm. He teaches me so much more about life than I ever could teach him, and I thank God every day for making him perfect just the way he is.
Lyrics to “Beautiful Things” by Gungor
Molly Korte is a wife and mother of 3. As an advocate for the special needs community, she wants to help make this world an inclusive and compassionate place. Read more about the amazing people she highlights at projectjustlikeyou.org