It feels like our son has died.

(My child has Autism Specrum Disorder? Devotional #1)

Psalm 23:4  Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for your rod and your staff, they comfort me.   

The son we had grown to know and love seemed to disappear. He was no longer just the bright boy who refused to use his words, the boy who had amazing hearing and a memory that wouldn’t quit and who was just too sage to speak his mind.

He was no longer just the boy with the infectious laugh that everyone couldn’t help but giggle with, even when they had no idea what was funny. Gone was the guy who just loved to shoot baskets, throw rocks into the river and roll bocce balls for hours at a time.

Our son seemed dead. Instead, we were given a boy we hardly knew. One that could talk but wouldn’t, but not just because he was being sage or stubborn, but because it was actually difficult for him. A boy who didn’t throw rocks or roll bocce balls on end just because he enjoyed it, but because he had a disability that made it difficult for him to stop and change what he was doing.

Instead of seeing our son as quirky, but whole, I now saw how broken he was. Thank goodness for my husband, who is more of a rose-colored-glasses, glass-half-full sort. I think he was able to keep a better perspective on things than I. My heart was truly broken.

Though I had suspected this reality since he was six-months old, having to come face-to-face with the fact that I would never be the mother of a “normal” son, required a lot of letting go.

The only thing that got me through this difficult time was Psalm 23. As I walked through the house I could see the deep canyons walls on either side of me. The path I was on was dark, with no sign of the valley ending. Having the promise, that God would comfort me brought me through to the other side, and it will bring you through, too.

Our worst fears are confirmed.

(You Want to Test My Kid for What? Devotional #7)

Job 3:25  What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.

It wasn’t exactly surprising to us, since the specialists made it clear all along that they thought our son may have autism. But getting the actual label was quite shocking and numbing.

The specialists who tested him and who interviewed and talked with my husband and I could not have been nicer. But to be told that your precious little child has something so possibly debilitating, something with no cure, something that will not kill him, but will require him to live a normal life span under such difficult circumstances was very disheartening.

And, because of the litigious nature of our current culture, the professionals must always tell us the worst possible scenarios, and downplay the best. So we were handed page upon page describing his disability. We were told that there was only a 30 percent chance that he had a normal intelligence level. The possibility of him living independently as an adult seemed very unlikely.

It was a bit of a relief to know what the problem was, and being surrounded by a group of people who were obviously interested in helping us was comforting. But the deadening thud on our hearts could not be denied.

Thanks be to God that He does not leave us to suffer alone for long. As He eventually comforted and blessed Job, so we can trust that He will do the same for us.

We need help!

(You Want to Test My Kid for What? Devotional #6)

Jeremiah 33:3  Call upon me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you know not.

Our family was at a friend’s house for a Christmas party the year our son had turned three. Within a short time of our arrival, our son was surprised by a Christmas ornament that made noise when its button was pressed. He became terrified and burst into waves of unstoppable tears. Finally, my husband decided that we needed to go home. I, being a stay-at-home-mom, panicked at the thought of needing to give up some much needed time to fellowship with others. I couldn’t bear to leave. So my husband went home without me, and I received a ride home from friends a little later on.

I know that sounds selfish and cruel, to not be willing to leave a party when my son was so obviously upset. But after three years of needing to hide myself away from anything and anyone that might upset my child, I was truly on the edge of losing my mind. My husband said that I just needed to be more careful about where I brought him, be more aware of what might set him off.

But there was no place I could bring him that wouldn’t set him off. Even staying at home and following a set routine did not bring peace. When it was time to stop playing so that we could eat lunch, he would run across the room screaming and hit me, every day, no matter what consequences I came up with.

That evening after the Christmas party fiasco I let me husband know that I could take the status quo no longer. We needed to get help on how to help our son, and there was no way to get help, if we didn’t know what the truth of his situation was. He agreed that, as much as we did not want our beautiful boy labeled, we needed to find some answers.

The next day I called our school district’s early childhood education department to let them know that we were interested in continuing the testing that we had halted a year earlier. It was a terrifying step to take. Would the return outweigh the risks?

Thankfully we have found God to be faithful in leading us down the path of having our son, “labeled.” The support we have received because of his diagnosis has been amazing.

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.