Thursday, April 29, 2010

Special Needs or Special Spirit...

I've found myself thinking a lot on the subject of my youngest son, Bobby. Although he is now 20 in physical age, but emotionally, he is about 7 overall, and in some areas he is only 3 or 4. When he was 2-1/2, he was diagnosed with Autism.

At this particular point in my life I was near the end of my second year of counseling for the recovery of child abuse issues. I had addressed the physical abuse and had ventured into the arena of sexual abuse. I had not yet touched on the S.R.A. (Satanic Ritual Abuse). I also had not yet accepted myself or believed I was all that innocent. I was still very much a victim of my father, even though he had been dead for almost 10 years. My counselor described my feelings towards myself as "self-loathing". I had just turned 32 years old, having been married for 13 years.

I had 6 children, ranging in ages from 12-1/2 down to 2-1/2. All of them were very different in personality. Bobby seemed to have some quirks, things that were a bit odd, but considering the diversity of my 6 children, I didn't think it was anything more than that. At 18 months he was sorting toys by colors and lining them in rows. I thought that meant he was really smart. He would gently touch an object (sometimes cars) as if he were reading braille. He seemed to be really intense in his play, being satisfied with a single toy for hours. He still took a bottle, I did not seem to be able to get him to give it up. I was determined to make him use a cup, so the week before Mother's Day, I threw his bottles away.

On Mother's Day and we were visiting my Mother-in-law. Those were always stressful times, she was not the nicest person to be around. In fact, she was pretty much the stereo-type created about Mother-in-laws. I found myself going into hyper-vigilant mode, just to protect my 6 children from her outbursts.

Bobby was behaving especially poorly. This was really strange for him, since he usually was "the perfect baby" as my friends in church would say about him. He usually was quite content to just sit and stare at a toy while I visited with my friends. It didn't occur to me that there was something odd about that behavior. I just figured he was happy.

But on this Mother's Day, he was not happy. He ran around her apartment, grabbing the dining room chairs and throwing them down to the floor. I could not get him contained. If I tried to hold him, he would scream. We finally left her house and went home, and I was exhausted.

I decided that Monday morning I would take him to the doctor. My husband was home, so I had a rare time of taking one child to the doctor without several more in tow. I thought he probably had an ear infection and that was why he was acting out so badly. I sat in the room, still trying to contain my child. He would run to the counter and try to open drawers and pull out supplies. So I would stand at the counter and protect the drawers. He would then run to the door and try to get out of the room. It is amazing how much a child can do in such a little room. Finally, I took him and laid him on the floor, holding one of his legs up in the air in my hand. That seemed to be the only way I could contain him, because he wiggled too much to be able to hold him securely on my lap.

When the doctor came into the room I was about in tears. I told the doctor what was going on and then he had me let go of Bobby's leg. He immediately jumped up and ran to the exam table. Climbing up one end, he ran down the table and was about to jump off the other end when I caught him. Just as I caught my baby, the doctor expressed his brief observation.

"He appears to be hyperactive".

I wanted to say "DUH!!" but held my tongue. I just stared at the doctor. But the next thing he said shattered my world in a way I didn't know was possible.

"He also appears to show signs of some autism."

Time stopped, it didn't move. I'm not sure how much went by before I started breathing again... I was terrified of autism. I thought I could deal with Down's Syndrome, or blindness or deafness or so many other things that could go wrong, but not autism. I had seen a show on t.v. when I was pregnant with my first child and I just knew I could not handle dealing with that condition. The show said it took simplicity and consistency to work with a child with autism. I had neither, I was an adult with A.D.H.D., and P.T.S.D. but didn't know it at the time. I just knew I had a really hard time keeping at tasks and not bouncing all over the place at times. And I suffered from bouts of depression.

With the birth of each of my children, I would watch for smiles and eye contact, and then be relieved when I got them. Of all the things the doctor could have said to me, that was literally the one I feared the most.

I left the doctor's office in a daze. When I got home I called a friend who had a child with O.C.D. and she guided me through the process of getting a definitive diagnosis. I bought some more bottles, and he immediately calmed down. This was my first experience in breaking one of his rules, of disrupting his routine. I did eventually get him off the bottle, but I think it took about another 2 years.

I cried to my Father in Heaven. How could He do this to me? Although I had come out of a really dysfunctional time, where all I could do some days was get out of bed long enough to get dressed, I still did not know how I was going to be a good parent to a child with autism. I didn't understand and I felt so very overwhelmed. As I let my heart calm down, I was given this answer. I wrote it down in my journal...

My Little Bobby

I see my child, in the path you are on
there are areas in which you need growth.
I will provide for you the opportunity you need
in which this growth can be realized.
And I will send that opportunity in the form of a child.
This is no ordinary child I send you.
You will know the moment you first see him
that he is not the same as the others.
As you watch the intricacies of his movements,
the grace of his touch,
you will know that this is God's poetry.
As you look into the beauty of his eyes,
you will see that this is innocence in it's purest form.
He will be a part of you as no other child can be.
Your lives interweave as you reach out to understand him.
And as you do this you will realize that this child is you.
Your hearts are the same.
They beat the same, they feel the same, they love the same.
But most important of all, they each carry the same pure innocence.
Lay hold on this opportunity I send you.
Reach out with your heart to pull him out of his shell,
and in doing so his heart will pull you out of yours.

This answer to my prayer gave me great comfort. I accepted that Heavenly Father knew what He was doing. I accepted that my child was different. I also came to understand how special he is. Because of his innocence, he is shielded from the pull of the adversary. He is not accountable in God's eyes. He does not now, and probably won't ever while in this earthly state, understand enough to be accountable. I believe his salvation is secure, and his work here on earth is to be a blessing to others. He has certainly been a blessing to me.

My counselor was concerned about what I would do. He had dealt several times before with counseling a parent who discovers their child has a developmental disability. He asked me what my plans were. That seemed odd to me. I told him that nothing about Bobby had changed, only my information about him. I was going to learn what I could and do the best I knew how. My counselor was relieved. He told me that far too often, the parent has chosen to give their child away. I could not comprehend doing that. But unfortunately, his father could. Not long after the diagnosis, my husband decided he could not have fathered this child, and accused me of cheating. That accusation later developed into his denial of all his children. He still tries to deny his parentage of them. I am very glad to be divorced from him.

Bobby presently lives with his sister Bridgette, her family, and his brother Danny. Bridgette and her husband were able to buy a big house in Woodburn. She called me shortly after they moved in to request I let Bobby live with them. Danny was already there. She felt it was time for me to have a rest. Time for me to get my life in order. I had just a few months earlier finalized my divorce with David.

At first I said no, I knew it would be a big challenge to take him in, and with Eric's illness (her youngest has Cystic Fibrosis) I felt it was too much. My mother convinced me to hear Bridgette out, so I did. I then asked her and her husband to pray about it, and I would too. We did, and the answer was to let him go. That was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But it was the right decision.

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