We found out Reid had autism when he was about three years old. So began the now familiar diagnosis-to-acceptance process that impacts more than 1 in 40 families in the United States. While it was devastating at the time, we reached a place of accepting that he is exactly the way God made him. God did not need to heal, cure, or fix Reid in order for him to be a blessing or for him to have a life of purpose. After wrestling with God, I realized that being mad at Him was not a good strategy. After all, He had created Reid and He knew Reid better than anyone. I would need His help.
Though I was crushed, I stayed in the Word and claimed the promises of Scripture even when I did not see evidence. If Jeremiah 29:11 is true, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” then it would prove out in Reid’s life as well as my daughter’s and mine. Reid’s significant behavioral, language, and social needs could not negate God’s Word for him.
The challenges of raising children with out-of-sync bodies, impulsivity, and unpredictable outbursts in public puts a strain on every aspect of daily life. In addition to the physical and mental exertion, families endure social isolation, embarrassment, and loss of friendships, and feel marginalized with their child who doesn’t fit in. Our reality was more complicated than that of our peers with the same age children. I had to absorb new subject matter from child development and occupational therapy to applied behavioral analysis and special education law. Life was a survival mission for many years before Jeremiah 29 came to fruition.
At the same time, Reid is a joy who is full of life and wonder. He is made in God’s image and passionate about music as well as worship. His childlike exuberance inspires people in our church family and community.
As Reid completed high school, my husband Jim and I were on a dinner date brainstorming what he could do in lieu of leaving for college. We knew he would need something more relevant than folding pizza boxes at Roundtable for an hour a week which was his job prospect at that point. He had written and recorded some original songs and loved to perform. He was also enamored with radio deejays and their banter. We knew anything with a mic would be motivating for him.
“What if Reid had a podcast where he interviewed people in the San Diego autism community, like his music therapist and teachers?” I said.
“Who wants to listen to that?” Jim blurted out loud. “Let’s have him interview people who everyone else wants to meet.”
Jim thought about it for a moment. “Influencers…celebrities…musicians…whoever we can get. Who’s going to turn down a kid with autism?”
The podcast was born.
Turns out my husband was right. After practicing with a neighbor who had climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, we asked the CEO of the Rock and Roll Music Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio for fifteen minutes of his time. (We would be there, where Jim and I are both from, for Thanksgiving.) He said, “Absolutely!” and had his assistant schedule it.
We watched Reid in his element as he hit it off with Mr. Greg Harris on obscure and deep musical intelligence. We continued to boldly ask prominent people coming through San Diego or ones who lived in cities we were visiting. To our delight, and Reid’s, they continued to say “yes” to an unlikely conversation.
What began as a social experiment became Reid’s continuing education and an example to others of how small gestures can make a huge impact. Talk Time with Reid Moriarty is in its fourth year. Reid has hosted an impressive lineup of guests including blues singer Keb’ Mo’, pop star Andy Grammer, Murray Monster of Sesame Street, Sam von Trapp the grandson of Maria, Dan Bane, CEO of Trader Joe’s, and Jerry of Ben & Jerry’s.
About 40 podcasts in, I began to see a pattern. Each guest who said “yes” embraced risk, humility and kindness as they interacted with Reid. As Reid practiced those attributes innately, he brought them out in people; building blocks to a more inclusive culture—what the world needs right now. Instead of being relegated to the margins of society, Reid was interacting boldly in the limelight. And without intending it, he was leading these high-profile people to become their best selves. He was making the world a better place.
Perhaps that is one way the promise of Jeremiah 29 has manifested in Reid’s life. God is faithful to His Word. And along the way, He has changed us as well. We admire and revere different things that we did when Reid was little. We value relationships and willingness more than achievement or intelligence. We are becoming more and more like Christ as we trust the same sovereign, omniscient, and almighty Father.
You can find more than 80 Talk Time with Reid Moriarty podcasts on Soundcloud, YouTube or at reidmoriarty.com. Andrea Moriarty is the author of two books about their experience that give hope to other parents and call communities to action: One-Track Mind: 15 Ways to Amplify Your Child’s Special Interest, and Radical Inclusion: What I Learned About Risk, Humility and Kindness from My Son with Autism.
For speaking engagements, contact Andrea at 858-518-1418