Today I am writing something that has been placed on my heart. As many of you know, I am a home schooling mom of two. But what a lot of people don't know is that my youngest son is autistic.
Scary word, AUTISM. At least it has been for me. I wish I would have been one of those moms who could have embraced that diagnosis, right off the bat. I was not that mom. I denied the very idea that my son could have autism. Ironically, it was through my insistence that we had him evaluated by a developmental specialist. I knew there was something different about Joey. His symptoms in no way were classic. Well, that's not true. He had a few of the classic symptoms: he walked on his toes and his speech was delayed. But that was it. All of his other "symptoms" screamed ADHD. Little did I know there was a tie-in to the whole "spectrum disorder".
When I brought my initial concerns to the pediatrician, thinking perhaps there was a hearing deficit but wanting her to confirm it was NOT autism, she asked me, "Does he line things up? Does he flap his arms? Does he sit in the corner and rock?" No to all the above! And embarrassingly, I was so thrilled when she told me is was not autism.
Joey's problems only got worse when we put him into preschool. A preschool which was part of a local Christian church, and the same one that my oldest attended and excelled in. My poor boy! I kid you not, he would be sent home everyday with a disciplinary note. "Joey stood on the table when the other kids were coloring", "Joey climbed into the art cabinet, causing all the supplies to be spilled", "Joey refused to sit still in circle time", "Joey covered his ears when he was told to obey the teacher", "Joey turned the light switch on and off incessantly". "Joey would not walk to the playground in a straight line with his classmates." (Yeah I know, the last one is what got me, too.)
Now, in the whole spectrum of life, these issues seem quite mundane. But I was a second time mom, whose first child was literally the perfect student. What was going on with my youngest? Why was he so disobedient? I never, ever thought it was behavior to cope in a world which he felt so uncomfortable inside. My precious child was silently screaming that he was overwhelmed and "...mommy, please get me out out here!" He just didn't have the language to use words, yet.
I started getting angry with the Nazi tactics of this preschool. Everyone must sit in a circle and listen to the story, hands in their lap. Says who?! We must walk in a straight line to the playground, and there will be no skipping, jumping, running or pretending to be an airplane while in line. Why not?!
This was the beginning of our future home schooling journey, and I really had no idea! But God did! He knew where we would end up and what He wanted for Joey. I had not a clue! All I knew was that I must rescue my little angel from this world he felt so overwhelmed within. But then what??
We came across another preschool program at another Christian church which exuded love and developmental play as a means to learn. They loved Joey and became an extended part of our family. But in love, this time, they took me aside to discuss that there were obvious issues which we may want to have a specialist look into. This began our journey into documentation and questionnaires. The beginning of looking at things through discerning eyes, not defensive ones. It was time to get some answers.
Autism is a clinical diagnosis. That means that once everyone who has anything to do with the child fills out oodles of questionnaires, a doctor will spend an hour with your child and piece things together. It isn't ideal, and I had my doubts about the process, but that's what a clinical diagnosis is...and it's just another rung in the ladder of this journey.
We got the diagnosis. Joey had(has)High Functioning Autism, non-Aspergers, with ADHD. We received the whole explanation of what a Spectrum Disorder is. Somewhere during that conversation, my ears started to ring and I couldn't hear anything. My thoughts circled, my fears, my shattered dreams FOR my son played in my head so loudly that there was nothing else audible! It took months of piecing together what the diagnosis meant for him and for us. It took awhile for me to get over the denial. My father never accepted Joey's diagnosis, and instead blamed his behavior on our poor discipline. It's easier that way, I guess.
Fast forward three years. We have been blessed to have a team of amazing therapists work with Joey, and who have brought forth his language! In fact I love the fact that I will sometimes turn to him and ask him to please be quiet for a moment!! He talks non-stop! He is happily home schooled, and is above grade level on most of his subjects. He is confident and happy and probably destined for the stage! He is a lovely, funny character of a kid!
As a mom (and dad) we only want the best for our kids. Sometimes what's best isn't the same thing as what's easy. Sometimes the road is bumpy and scary and full of crocodiles... but when we give it to God on a daily basis it is doable. It becomes His plan and purpose and not ours. We look through His eyes at the future not the world's. I can tell you that God has big plans for my son...something that only he can accomplish. It will be because of his struggles that he succeeds, not in spite of them.
As a mom, I am a student of my little men. I see the world through their perspectives. One of those perspectives is different, but no less amazing!