In the past few days, I have been pushed around, challenged to hold true to my faith and always remember that there is a reason for everything and God is in control. I haven’t been pushed around by bullies but by this mysterious disorder known to many as Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder.
For the last year and 4 months, autism has lived in our home, officially. And while, we have learned many things, and learned how to cope and work with this mystery, I am learning that it truly is a lifelong learning process, not just for our grandson who has autism, but for those of us that love this little guy and want so much for his life to be as normal as possible.
We can’t go to the park or even in the backyard unless there is a minimum of three adults with him. Why? Because he is a runner. He loves to run, and he doesn’t care if he is running down into a creek bed of freezing cold water or into the street with traffic. When he starts running, no amount of hollering at him to stop, or calling his name works. Which means you have to run just as fast as he does or faster in hopes you can catch him before he enters the danger zone. This was the case yesterday morning when he figured out how to get out the front door, off the porch and ran into the backyard in his pajamas of shorts/shirt and socks in 20-degree weather. He was on a mission to get to his swing set. He is a sensory seeker, which is part of his sensory processing disorder, he is looking for things that will fill the need of whatever stimulation he is missing and he will climb on anything, regardless if it is meant for climbing or safe to be doing so. EVERY DAY is a battle. And if he doesn’t have something solid to climb upon, he will use a toy or toys stacked up and attempt to do the climbing.
He figures ways to climb over the safety gates that are installed to keep him safe, on end tables and desktops if he sees something he wants or wants to investigate. And then he will jump off of them, regardless of how high up it is or what may be in his jump zone that could be dangerous or harmful to him.
He doesn’t like loud noises and as much as he does well at his preschool in a small group of people, he doesn’t like a lot of people in one space. There are times he will run and hide in a wooden cabinet or under a table or cover himself with a blanket, so he is safe and hidden from the world. As he becomes stronger with each passing day, it is difficult to keep him reigned in one area. At age 3, he weighs 38 pounds and is over 3 feet tall. Putting things up out of his reach is not as easy as they were a year ago. He has always had great strength since birth. Never needed help holding his head up, although we did.
He slides down the wooden stairs on his belly, feet first, and laughs and giggles when he gets to the bottom, running up to do it all over again. I hold my breath a lot. I am so afraid he will seriously hurt himself, but I’ve come to realize that the vestibular input and proprioceptive input he gets from doing a thing like this, he can’t get any other way. Or no way that he likes so far. His mini trampoline, use to provide enough input, he didn’t need more aggressive forms, but now the trampoline just isn’t enough. He can be very aggressive at times, and its hard to try to explain to him that he can’t headbutt others or constantly bang his head on the floor or the wall. I know I am not the only person that has lived with a child like this, there are many of us that live in silence, because people who don’t experience it on a daily basis, can’t begin to imagine what it is truly like. And then there are sweet calm moments, like right now, where he climbs on my lap, gives me a hug, lays his head on my shoulder, just for a moment to take a break from his high-strung activities and lets me know he loves me and for a moment all is peaceful. But it usually doesn’t last very long.
Each one of us is a work in progress, from the day we are born. Life experiences shape who we become and why we act the way we do. For most children, language develops at 6 months. It may just be babbling, but it is a form of language. Speaking and language development is crucial to know if your child has a problem or a developmental delay in communication. By 18 months, he still wasn’t saying anything except ma and da. Not even mama or Dada, And every time we saw the pediatrician, we were assured that he had done so many other things, early (sitting, crawling, walking) that he was just gonna be slower with talking because he was busy. Repeated attempts to have him tested fell on deaf ears. Well-meaning friends and family offered advice. Here’s my two cents on this matter: If you think your child has any type of developmental delay, press for the physician to make the referral for testing, to determine what the problem is. You know your child, You spend the most time with them. I am glad we finally found a doctor that was willing to listen to our concerns and give us the referral we needed.
When he was diagnosed at 26 months, he had just those two words and very little eye contact with anyone. Thanks to early intervention services, speech therapist, developmental specialists, and lots of work at home with him, he was able to start preschool this year, four days a week for a few hours a day. He started with 40 words, well under what a normal two-year-old would have and some of the 40 words were his “made up” words for objects he knew about. Now after being in preschool for over 2 1/2 months his vocabulary is growing and he is just starting to put two or more words together to form two-word phrases. Since being in therapy, we have learned that his language delays are both expressive and receptive language delays. So his understanding is limited right now, but he is learning and he is thriving.
We are very fortunate that while most children on the spectrum have struggled with sleep, he is not one of them. There is always something to be thankful for. Always.
And when I want to sit and cry because life isn’t fair, and these were the cards we were dealt, I could be angry with God and I could wonder why him? But I am reminded of a story in the Bible, that puts it into perspective the best.
John 9:1-5New Living Translation (NLT)
Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind
9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. 2 “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”
3 “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. 4 We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.[a] The night is coming, and then no one can work. 5 But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”
I don’t know why our grandson has Autism, but I do know that God will work it all out. I know that I have learned many things about this Spectrum Disorder and while he is learning his way and knowledgeable about many things he can’t share with us yet, I see it every day. He is very smart for a three-year-old. He loves to fiddle with things and take them apart to see how they work, he might be an engineer someday or maybe even a teacher. He is learning what numbers are and what they mean, learning about colors and shapes and loving every minute of it. He is slowly starting to interact with others, and I am thankful for that. At home, his interactions are that of a typical child, in public, it’s a slow process, but a process just the same. He uses a combination of spoken words, pictures, and sign language to request what he wants. Most of the time, we understand, the frustrating times comes when there is no picture and he tries and tries and still we don’t understand. As much as it is frustrating for us, I can only begin to imagine how frustrating it is for him.
His memory is excellent. If he has experienced it, he can share in one-word utterances the details. We have been talking to him lately about getting his hair cut. It’s way too long for our liking, but he is very sensitive to anyone touching his head or messing with it in any way. But he remembers his first haircut. We took him to a local salon. (Me, his grandfather and mother whom he refers to as maw, da, and meem) And we rode in da’s car and boo boon (and papaw drove and after the haircut, they gave him a blue balloon).
But it was not a fun experience. It took two of us to hold him, while the stylist, tried using scissors to trim his hair nice and neat and we ended up getting a buzz cut because that was the fastest (and probably the most painful for him, i.e. loud, vibrating noise).
As I finish this out for today, he is pacing around the living room, with his shoes on and his backpack, he’s waiting for the bus. It will be a long wait, the bus will not be here until tomorrow morning. But telling him that school is closed, telling him there is no bus coming to pick him up, hasn’t worked. So, until he tires of wearing his backpack, he will continue to walk back and forth with the backpack on. Sometime’s he gets “stuck” and because it isn’t harming him to do this, we allow it. It makes him happy.
Isn’t’ that what we all want for our children/grandchildren to live happy, carefree lives. He was sad that we didn’t go to church today. But it is too much on me to try to contain him in the parking lot, while holding his hand, walking with a cane and carrying a purse and diaper bag, so we missed out today. We played together, read the first few pages of a toddler book and he climbed and I held my breath.
And tomorrow, I will do it all over again until he goes into another phase, that no one knows what it will be or what it will look like. And Jesus will get me through it all. He always does.
May you know how much Jesus loves you~he will meet you right where you are.
Blessings to you~Carlene