In Madison, Kansas, population 701, the front porch of one home stands out from the rest. In place of the usual light above the front door, a blue light bulb burns throughout the day and night. Inside, on first appearance, the home is lived in by the typical, wholesome small-town family, but the struggle of daily life for Melissa Nelson and Azim Williams is more apparent after a few minutes standing inside the living room on a sunny afternoon.
Nelson and Williams are the parents of three children: two six-year-old twin boys and a two-year-old boy. The twins, Amar and Azim Jr., were diagnosed with autism at a young age, are non-verbal, and must be kept to a structured daily routine that allows them to complete simple tasks such as studying, eating and bathing. Two-year-old Aaron is just now beginning to show early symptoms of autism, including lack of eye contact, a low number of words in his vocabulary, and tantrums that are excessive for a child of his age.
On a normal day for Nelson and Williams, they have to do the things that anyone else does -- work, run errands, go shopping, and keep up the house. In addition to that, when the twins return home from school, they take on a whole other set of obligations in caring for the children in a way that many wouldn't understand the complications of. Without a means to verbally communicate, the boys become frustrated and unwilling to listen to their parents at times. They become fascinated with their own toys and games, Amar loving animals and video games and Azim Jr. his train toys. If a routine task doesn't go as expected, Nelson and Williams always face the risk that one of the boys will have a tantrum that can sometimes last for hours, where they will scream, yell, kick and even even try to run away.
Through all of this, Nelson and Williams show an unconditional love for their children. Even as they describe the fears they had when they had twins at 23 years old, and the diagnoses that came a few short years later, they speak only positive things about the boys. When one of the children refuses to go to their next task, or begins to get upset, the patience and gentle touch that they receive shows clearly that within the Nelson-Williams household, love, understanding, and acceptance are more important than anything else.