If you missed part 1, you can find it here.
Have you ever seen those posters or advertisements with the mom nursing her baby? That was my middle son- not literally, but figuratively. He was the poster child for breast feeding. I enjoyed nursing him. It’s how God designed our bodies as mothers. However, he was never happy unless he was nursing. We tried everything to pacify him in between nursing sessions. My husband would cradle him – Nope. We tried the swing – Nope. We tried a pacifier – Nope. We tried everything you could possibly think of and were greeted with the same “Nope.” Keep in mind that we are attachment parenting minded people, especially with newborns. We do NOT do the “cry it out.” This child was either nursing or crying! He would keep awake all day, too. Many babies take multiple naps throughout the day, especially newborns. Obviously, our son didn’t fit within the confinements of that statistic.
As he got older, he started doing a little better with the naps and the nursing; however, he was still a very high needs baby. He seemed to live in a constant state of over stimulation no matter how dim the lights were, or how quiet we were, or whatever. Sounds of a motorcycle, garbage truck, firetruck, etc., could send him into a screaming fit. The decibel level in his scream could shatter glass. He also had food issues. When I introduced him to solids, he wanted nothing to do with them. We’d put them aside and try again later. Every time we tried solids again, we were left with the same conclusion. He was just over 1 year old and still not eating solids. There was no way I was about to be outdone by a 1-year-old child, so I continued to introduce him to solids. Eventually, my hard work, pulling my hair and frustration paid off – he started eating some solids. He was still nursing and I was more than happy to continue nursing him as long as he wanted, but I was also pregnant with baby number 3.
We continued trying solids and he was eating solids, but his intake and choice of solids was very limited. When he was two, he would randomly vomit for no reason. He wasn’t running a fever, he wasn’t pale, his stomach wasn’t tight or making a gurgling noise. He had no signs or symptoms to explain why this was happening. Of course, because he’s the middle child and refuses to be the “forgotten” child, he would wait to vomit in the middle of the night. As parents, we all have that “I’m such a horrible parent!” moment. Our horrible parent moments came when he would not cry or scream and call for Mommy when he puked. We had the top of the line monitor in his room and still didn’t hear him vomit. He would vomit and go right back to sleep as if nothing ever happened. It wasn’t often this would happen, but it did happen and I presented myself with the “Worst Mother in the World” award. I felt awful. I was also at a loss on this one. If we forced him to eat foods he said he could not, he would puke on his plate. Initially, we assumed it was behavioral. That was ruled out when my oldest son’s ABA therapist observed him and ruled it out.
Middle son also had a speech delay. It wasn’t until he was about 2-1/2 years old before we could understand some of his words, but his vocabulary mainly consisted of jibber-jabber. As he neared 3, he continued to improve but still very difficult for everyone but me and hubby to understand. He threw fits because he couldn’t communicate his thoughts or feelings. Thankfully, we were able to get in with a developmental pediatrician. The doctor looked everything over and said that he had PDD-NOS. Awesome! I now have 2 of my 3 kids on the Autism spectrum!
They are as different as night and day as are most siblings. Middle son is very soft hearted and feels a sense of remorse that the oldest doesn’t. I have learned in my studies in trying to parent these children that Autism is much like snowflakes in that no two snowflakes are alike. Each child has different needs and they are exactly how God intended them to be, traveling down a different path than other children their age.
Middle son is doing exceedingly well in AWANA, he’s doing great in his homeschool co-op AND he’s taking piano lessons! 🙂
I believe that one of the best things we have done for our children on the spectrum – outside of raising them to be Soldiers4Christ and ABA therapy – is to have more children. In our experience, it has pushed them to get past many social boundaries and it has taught them many character traits such as acceptance and tolerance that they would not have learned being only children. My oldest has to accept that my middle son is not like him and that he has thoughts of his own and is on the path God has placed him on. This was a hard one for my oldest, but he is getting better. 🙂 They have had to learn to tolerate – tolerate each other, tolerate interruptions, tolerate noises, tolerate someone invading their personal space. They’ve learned many things about each other and about themselves. When my youngest son came onto the scene, the tolerance level had to skyrocket. He’s not on the spectrum but he makes his older brothers include him in all the activities. Life is busy and full at our house.
I once had a person ask me how I do it. My reply is “How can I not?” While we get some choices in life, life doesn’t always offer favorable choices in many situations when raising multiple children on the spectrum. Our kids are always watching us. They watch our movements, our habits, our reactions, everything! Our kids are listening to us always. They not only listen to our words, but also our tone of voice. Probably more to our tone of voice. Our kids are always learning from us, which is rightfully so because, well, that’s how God intended it to be in his perfect design. We can teach our children so much by modeling the character traits we want them to have. Raising two kids on the spectrum, I’ve had days that I wanted to sit and have a good cry or even scream at the top of my lungs. There are days I have wondered if I got in the van and drove off, would it really matter? Of course it matters, and I would never – NEVER – do that. The point that I’m trying to make is what does any of that teach our children? When life gets tough, just curl up into a ball and lay around? When life is just too hard, that it’s okay to quit? Our kids are watching how we react to every situation. A doctor once asked me what I wanted to change about my oldest son. My reply was, “Absolutely nothing.” God doesn’t make mistakes and my son was exactly how God made him. God doesn’t call the equipped, but equips the called. God would equip us, as parents, with the tools, patience and knowledge to parent our kids.
To my beloved parents who are raising children on the spectrum:
Never doubt what God has placed in your lap. He has specifically placed that child in your life for many reasons. God does not have plans to bring us harm. He does not plan to hurt us. He has plans for good in our life but are we looking for the good? One thing I had to learn when Autism first came to our house was that I needed to look for one thing to praise my child. I started with one thing and moved onto two until it snowballed into daily praising. I also praised God for the children He blessed me with. The most challenging days I had were those times when I wanted to scream or jump or pull my hair out. When I focused on Philippians 4:8, I was able to see the blessings God personally handed me.
Folks, blessings come in many shapes and sizes and that includes our children with Autism. I promise you we are not cursed. I assure you God is not punishing us for some sin we committed in our formidable years. We were chosen. We, above anyone else, were chosen to parent these children. There is no mistaking what we have to offer these special children; no mistaking what they have to offer us; definitely no mistaking the blessings that God has given us in Autism.
I am thankful that Autism came to our house to live. We will always have hard days. We will have days we’re ready to throw in the towel and quit. We will always have days where we just don’t think we can do it anymore. However, no matter how bad the day might seem to be, I know that my God is there with me, holding my hand, leading me, guiding me, comforting me, and showing me the way. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He has a bigger plan. Don’t fret because you can’t see the entire plan. Remember the plan is there, my friends.
I’m reminded of the question I was once asked, “How do you do it?” My answer remains the same – “How can I not?” However, there’s more to that answer. “How can I not when I have God’s Word hidden in my heart so that when those hard days come, I can fall back on the promises that God has shared.”
Handpicked parents of special children, we can do this! Always be thankful for ALL the blessings including Autism. I’m thankful everyday!