I remember sitting in the waiting room of the doctor’s office with my husband, who had taken the day off. A friend watched Christina at home. And Adam? Adam was in the office being evaluated to see if he had Autism/ fell on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. He was 3 1/2 years old. He had started walking and moving and running early, but his speech was delayed. He sang the alphabet again and again and again. He knew some words to songs. Christian and nursery rhymes. But not independently speaking. And not making enough eye contact according to his speech therapist and his nursery care givers at church. So we waited, and we found out that yes, Adam had Autism and that took us down a long valley of joy and pain, of love being shown to us and feeling isolated, of feeling like the worst parents and also feeling like we were doing a good job….
But let me back up a bit.
Christina (who is 11 months older than him) had had a speech delay, (we’re a bilingual family). We put her in speech from the time she was 2 1/2years. She potty trained all right and went to preschool without much language at 3 1/2. We continued weekly speech through the school district and by the time she was 4 1/2, we saw marked improvement. She was socially capable, able to follow directions, sit in groups, do things, speak to the teacher and her classmates and make herself understood. She had sounds and blends to be corrected and so still continued in speech and still does. Not once did anyone who interacted with her tell us they had concerns with her eye contact or social ability. That should have been our first clue, but we didn’t pay attention.
So we figured that’s what Adam needed. Maybe he was far, far, far behind, even Christina, but he was a boy. If we waited it out, he’ll get there. So we put Adam in speech at 2 1/2. Then he went into the school district for speech at 3. The speech pathologist had repeatedly told us about his inconsistent and insufficient eye contact and tantrums. We put it away, assuming if we could potty train Adam and send him to preschool, he would be fine ( my husband and I are both doctors, but we didn’t want to accept our son being different and so were in denial). While we were actively pursuing things that could help our children, we ignored the large elephant in our lives.
Then Adam stopped sleeping! He was a child who slept for 11-12 hours at night plus a nap, now he was up between 1-5 every night, he wanted the lights on, puzzles out, the electronics etc. He was awake and then just stayed awake. Our small group leaders, husband-wife DD and WD encouraged us to get him evaluated. DD like Raj is a doctor and WD like me is a stay at home mom. So we set up the appointment and DD was able to get them to see us earlier than the appointed date.
So in the waiting room at the doctor’s, I was desperately praying that Adam would not have Autism. That didn’t happen. He was diagnosed and we started ABA therapy , which is one on one, home based, intensive, play based behavioural modification. An adult (who is alert, awake and capable!) needed to be in the premises at all times, which meant me! Adam would eventually go up to 33 hours of therapy per week, some of those sessions would be in group therapy sessions.
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Christina was in half-day preschool and eventually attended full day , four days a week. She still needed to go to speech (different school from her preschool) and a classmate’s mother would drive her there and back. She was 4 1/2years. I dealt with guilt over sending her to school for so long for several months. When possible I tried to take them to parks and Chuck e cheese’s to let Christina have some fun. At that point, she and I butted heads over everything. A preschool teacher,Lara, who saw Adam for a few weeks before his diagnosis, gave me brilliant advice, to include Christina in the day to day stuff, make her feel useful in helping with Adam, and just speaking truthfully to her about what was going on. That helped so much! Months later I forced myself to make cookies and cakes with her and allow her to “help” and “decorate” them with me. Sometimes I would make cookies after 11 in the night, and let her decorate them the next day. I made a point of taking her with me to run errands if my husband was home with Adam during his sessions on the weekends. Today she doesn’t like me doing errands on my own as I’d be “alone and sad”!!! 🙂 Today she is an incredible, beautiful, dancing, let’s-play-pretend, loving, compassionate child. (Most of the time) Christina includes her brother in everything.
After Adam’s diagnosis I grieved for several months, to the point when asked how I was, I brawled. We had several good friends and close family who came alongside to help us out, emotionally, spiritually and financially. A close family member gave us a lot of money to start therapy for Adam ( we private paid while we waited for approval of insurance 2-3 months, and then paid the deficit ). Several friends shared their time and love and support with us, by watching the kids sometimes, by inviting us to their home, by giving us meals. Many , many people prayed for us and still do.
Through the struggles of interacting with each other and providing for our kids, our marriage took a hit and spiraled out of control. There came a point when I wanted to split. But Thank God……. Thank God. He provided for us in such a way that it was no mistake that it was Him. On a Monday , a godly friend who knew us very well told me, reminded me of the things I had seen in my husband and why I wanted to stay married to him. That Tuesday my brother’s pastor told us (through the prompting of the Spirit) about the struggles in his marriage and how God helped him and asked me to let him speak to my husband. On Wednesday the lady pastor that I was going to for counseling gave me E Emerson’s book Love and Respect ( I highly recommend that book) and that gave me so many scriptural truths and practical tips. Thursday Raj and I were civil to each other. Friday we met the male pastor together and talked about things. Saturday Raj and I warmed up to each other more. Sunday we attended church, then afterwards Raj and the male pastor went to lunch and talked for nearly 4 hours! That week saved our marriage. And it was all the Lord’s doing. If He hadn’t orchestrated all of those things, we wouldn’t be together now and I wouldn’t have been writing a blog and encouraging you to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Because those people were faithful to Him and heeded Him, Adam and Christina are in a good place now, so are Raj and I. The kids are thriving. Christina loves her school and is talking up a storm and has no problem making friends. She’s a dancing-let’s play pretend-draw a picture for someone else kinda girl. She has an active imagination and is blessed with creativity and hospitality. She loves painting and coloring and drawing ( she hates us picking her up early from church as that doesn’t give her time to finish her craft!). She likes to “make” cupcakes and cookies and fun snacks for her class and since she absolutes hates not giving it to everyone in her class, I end up making a huge batch often! Today we’re going to be making “hello kitty” cookies! Regarding her speech delay, you wouldn’t know it when you speak with her. She uses full sentences and descriptive words, you may hear some blends mis-pronounced , but that’s all. She still continues in speech to correct those sounds.
Adam is responding well to ABA. With him we’ve been through waking up in the nights, taking clothes off, spitting, tantrumming, flicking light switches on and off, spinning, looking out of the corner of his eye, but we’ve seen huge and marked improvements . He’s making more eye contact, showing affection, paying attention ( to things he likes when done with someone else), asking for things (saying “cookie/cheetos” when he’s hungry, “black jacket” when he’s cold, “IPad” all the time 🙂 , and “Chrissa” for his sister). He’s started following some instructions. He loves being with us, he’ll bring his puzzles/play-doh/kinetic sand to the sofa/room we’re in and play there. He is happy 🙂 , loves running, jumping, climbing things, walking in parks, walking barefoot, taking baths, his sister, cheetos, gold fish and dark chocolate!(my other child doesn’t like chocolate!!) . He likes music and listening to songs ( we found out that he calms down when listening to Magnify by We Are Messengers a few months ago). He knows his alphabet (upper case, lower case, sounds, spelling of several words that start with each letter, sight words), he’s reading whole sentences and early reader books by himself. He knows his numbers up to at least 4000 and can count backwards from at least 100 (what I’ve seen, he may know more). Did I mention that he’s 4 1/2? He’s been and still is a joy to watch.
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Raj and I are growing stronger in the Lord, closer to Him and to each other. We’re being intentional with the time we give God. We’re reading His word, putting it into practice, studying His word and discussing it with each other. We are in a better and tighter place in our marriage. We haven’t come out all of our struggles but it’s starting to get “easier” since we’re going through it with joy and peace. We’re still attending multiple churches every week 🙂 We like spending time with each other, even if it’s watching a movie at home, or if he’s playing video games, I’ll sit next to him and work on my blog. We like being in the same room. We may not have 3 hour conversations, but companionable silence to us is just as nice. We started daily family prayer about a year ago, for the first few weeks it was awkward but now it’s starting to get natural and fun 🙂 We’re being kinder to each other. I’m learning to give him his space if he had a bad week/day at work. He’s learning to take the kids off my hands completely ( I’ll be in our room, and he locks the door so the kids can’t get in! :-)) if I’ve had a bad day/night with Adam. We take turns waking up early/sleeping in on the weekends ( every weekday we’re both up early, on Saturday/Sunday one of us sleeps longer, the other wakes up with the kids since they never sleep in!) .
I’m thankful to God alone for this. Giving me another chance with Raj. Giving me so many blessings that I can’t count. Giving me children that stretch me so much, that I have no choice but to let Him be my Strength in my weakness. Giving me Himself. Giving me His Word to encourage, strengthen and build me up, to make me more like Him. He alone is worthy of my praise, my worship, my honour, my respect, my submission, my obedience. He is my ABBA Father and He loves me. He is working all things in my life for His good and His glory. He has a plan and a purpose for me, one to prosper me and not to harm me, one to give me hope and a future. But….. It’ll be in His time. It’ll be done according to His plan and His will. It will not look like what I want. It will not conform to the world’s standards. It will be to draw all people to Him. So…. I’ll be obedient (try), and trust in Him. He alone knows what is going to happen. He alone is on the throne. He is in control.
Would you share your stories of trust and hope and obedience with me? Would you share how God has been faithful and has shown Himself to you in the midst of your valley? Remember we never walk alone. He is always with us.
Be blessed friend, this week and always,