My family thinks we should get him labeled.

(You Want to Test My Kid for What? Devotional #5)

Proverbs 15:22  Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

By the time our son had reached his third birthday, and still did not say much more than, “mama,” “daddy,” and “no,” our extended families were getting very concerned. It is true that there are some children that don’t start speaking until they are four, but that is very unique. We used the argument that Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was four, because, as he said, he hadn’t seen a need to speak until then. Later I learned that it is widely believed that Albert Einstein was probably on the Autism Spectrum. So much for that argument.

Our son was able to get his needs met by grunting and looking at what he wanted. It was challenging to understand him at times, since when looking at an object on a kitchen counter, it could be difficult to tell which object of the 10 or so was he looking at? There were days when I was near tears or just barely able to keep from screaming in frustration during these guessing games.

Our son liked a predictable schedule and predictable food. This had been simple to maintain when it had just been the two of us at home all day, and when his sister had been a baby. But now that she was nearing her second birthday, she had ideas and opinions of her own. She liked surprises, both in schedule and food. His consistently intense reactions to disruptions in his life were getting more and more difficult for me and others to handle.

My mother wisely noted that it would be better for people to learn that he has a disability than to simply think that he is a brat. I kept hoping that he was just being the typical three-year-old and would grow out of his tantrums.

The earlier you get help for your child, the easier it will be for them to learn new ways of behaving. So if you have a supportive group of friends or family who are concerned about your child, seriously think and pray about if you should get your child help.

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We do NOT want him labeled!

(You Want to Test My Kid for What? Devotional #4)

Proverbs 22:1  A good name is more desirable than great riches.

My husband and I were caught in a catch 22. We were pretty sure that our son was not, “normal.” But our state won’t let anyone in their employ help our son without giving him a label, first. It makes sense that the state can’t okay the disbursement of funds unless there is documented need for those funds. But we were afraid that getting that label would fundamentally change how the world treated our son.

I suppose we could have had him tested and labeled by the school district without telling anyone we knew about it. But the label would follow him throughout his school career. Eventually word would get out. We could have chosen to have him tested by a private agency, but again, if he needed help once he became school-age, the label would have to be shared with the school district. We knew that realistically, there would be no way to keep such a label from affecting him.

We were afraid that people would consider him to be stupid, that they would not give him a chance at life, that they would make fun of him or find ways to manipulate and use him. So we decided that at two years of age, a label was not what we wanted for him.

Was it selfish on our part to not move forward with testing? Were we just too scared to deal with the implications of a label? Possibly. Do I sit and wonder what our child would be like if we had decided to get help for him earlier? No. We made the best decisions we knew how to at the time, and I believe God will honor that.

What things do you worry about should your child receive the label of, “Autism?”

Thankfully people today are much more open to treating those with differences as an important part of society, compared to previous generations where people with differences were often hid away.

You want to test my child for what?

(You Want to Test My Kid for What? Devotional #3)

Psalm 121:5  The Lord watches over you.

When our son was two, my husband and I decided to have him tested for developmental delays, as he was not talking as well as his sister 15 months his junior or his nephews who are exactly 7 months younger than him. During his two-year check-up, I asked our pediatrician where she would recommend that we go for testing. She didn’t think there was anything wrong with our child, but gave me the names of some agencies none-the-less.

We decided to go with the Early Childhood and Family Education (ECFE) department in our school district. When I contacted them with our concerns they agreed to send an early childhood specialist to our home to ask some questions and observe our child. They would then be able to recommend next steps based on her observations.

When the specialist arrived, our son was happily playing at his train table. He let her play with him and acted as he normally does. Part of me was hoping that she would find nothing wrong with him, while the other part of me was hoping she would.

After playing with and observing him for some time, and then asking me numerous questions, she left, with the promise to return in several weeks with her findings.

Several weeks later she and another specialist arrived at my door. We sat down in the living room, and the second specialist asked me a few questions like, does your child have driving routes memorized? After answering affirmatively to most of her questions, she said the words that would change our lives forever: “We would like to test your son for Autism.”

In a bit of shock, I thanked them for their time and told them that my husband and I would discuss it and get back to them. Surprisingly, though they confirmed the thoughts that I had had for almost two years, I gladly agreed with my husband that he was too young to be tested for something so serious. Many children didn’t talk well at 24 months, we reasoned. Besides we didn’t want him labeled, and then treated badly because of the label.

Are you thinking of having your child tested for developmental delays or disabilities?

If you have a pediatrician that you trust, like we did, I would recommend asking him or her where to start. Otherwise, I would contact your school district for information on early childhood screening.

My family thinks I am making things up.

(You Want to Test My Kid for What? Devotional #2)

Ecclesiastes 7:8  “Patience is better than pride.”

I am a very analytical person, and I have been known to struggle with overinflated fears. On the other hand, my mother and sister like to take life as it comes. My husband is analytical, but he tends to look at life from a more optimistic perspective than I.

So when I shared with these individuals that I thought the baby may have autism, they pretty much laughed at me. The good thing about no one else recognizing his disability is that he was treated like a normal child. No pity was given or special allowances made. All hopes and dreams for a normal life for him were firmly intact. He was loved and adored as the whole child God created him to be.

The bad news, from a human perspective, is that he did not start receiving the assistance that he needed until much later. However, from an eternal perspective, there is no bad news. God knew the family He was placing this child into. He knew when this child’s disability would be recognized. Everything is going according to His plan.

Are your concerns or the concerns of others about your child grounded in reality? Are you finding yourself needing to wait for others to agree with you that your child needs help?

Remember that God cares more about your child than even you do, and He can work miracles in the lives of everyone involved.

Funding for ASD/Military Family Camp

My parents have a lake home on Spirit Lake, directly across from the Whispering Pines camp property in Burnett County, Wisconsin. The camp property has come up for sale.
 
My husband and I are interested in keeping Whispering Pines a Christian camp that serves the spiritual needs of families in the area. We would like to start a religious non-profit, so we would not own the camp, the non-profit would.
 
Our dream is to have a place for whole families struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to have a place to recuperate both physically and spiritually. We would like to offer hippotherapy (horse therapy), physical, occupational, and recreational therapy. We would also like to offer educational and counseling services, and most importantly spiritual support for the whole family through chapel services, kids programs and chaplains. Then, of course, the beauty of the lake and the enjoyment of the outdoors would add to the healing process. Our focus would be on serving military families and other families who have a loved one with a long-term developmental or physical disability. But all families experience extreme stress at times, so we would like to provide a place for all families to heal, and grow closer to God and each other.
 
I realize that there are several other Bible camps in the area, but they all focus on children or offering spiritual retreats for families and individuals without the added physical and psychological care that the we would seek to provide. Also, I understand that there is a new retreat center in the area for families who have lost a child or are suffering under the stress of a terminally ill child. The families we hope to serve do not fit into these categories – the families we hope to serve have a member who is temporarily or permanently disabled, but who is not terminally ill.
 
I realize that there are already two other offers on the property – one to make it into a housing development, another to make it into a campground. However, those offers are contingent on zoning changes.
If we can go to the zoning commission meeting on Thursday, Dec. 17 with a viable plan to keep the property a camp, we may be able to persuade the zoning commission to not approve the zoning changes required for the other two offers.
 
I figured out that with 20% down on a $970,000 dollar loan (that is what the current housing development offer is), we would need about $210,000 for a down payment and closing costs, and about $4500 a month to pay for the mortgage, assuming a loan at 5.25 %. My husband and I are able to finance a chunk of this project. If you, or anyone you know would be interested in supporting such a project, let me know and at what amount. If we could have some sort of viable funding by Thursday, that may help to keep the zoning change from being approved.
 
Thank you for your thoughtful consideration. I will not make any comments that disclose financial or contact information public.
Heather Holbrook