Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Journey with Autism

I often have talked about the journey that comes with walking the path of having a child who has a learning/educational disability. But the truth is, it affects all of us in our family. While they are not completely 100% positive what causes a child to be born with Autism it definitely impacts the entire family. It is no surprise that having a child with special needs often leads to the end of a marriage. More often than not the marriage already had problems, but dealing with special needs just put too much stress on a marriage already struggling to make it. My family is an exception to that rule, but Chris and I are both talkers. We have our share of disagreements, but in the end we tend to pull towards one and another and hold each other up during the tough times. But I know that having Elizabeth impacts Sarah and Beka's lives. For Sarah, it is that overwhelming need to protect Elizabeth. While in middle school, Sarah and several of her friends chewed out a fellow student who mistakenly said that children with Autism are stupid or retarded. Sarah and her friends immediately set the record straight. When the kid asked how they would know - they all explained that Sarah's sister had Autism. He shut his mouth pretty quickly after that. When we go into a new situation - especially before Elizabeth could express herself, Sarah came to her defense several times when other children would be mean to her. Elizabeth is learning to stand her ground, but I think deep down, Sarah and I will always rise to the occasion when things get tough for Elizabeth. Chris is much quieter about how it affects him, but from time to time he lets me know that something bothers him or upsets him. I also know he feels as if some of what happened with Elizabeth is his fault because he has some of her quirks and he believes it is possible that she inherited it from him - and on that point so does my Mom. For Beka, the effects are mainly unseen at this time. She is the younger sibling so only time will tell. However, she and Elizabeth share a room, so for now she benefits having a playmate who gets along well with her. But I know Chris and I both worry about how she will act as she gets older and realizes that Elizabeth is a little bit different from her. There are a lot of worries that come from having any child who is as loving and trusting as Elizabeth. We worry about people taking advantage of her. We are terrified that some stranger will talk her into getting into their car and then we'll never see her alive again. But I think one of our greatest fears is that some boy or boys in her school will talk her into having sex because she wants to be liked so badly that we worry she will let them talk her into something she would never do if under our watchful eye. So this our life with Autism. There are tons of hurtles we have overcome - she talks very well now and before she barely talked (at least so others could understand her). She can go into a new situation - it's not without some fear and anxiety, but she can do it and not freak out. She makes good eye contact with us with only minimal prompting now - and before we had to and sometimes still ask, "Where are my eyes." We still have some things that have to be overcome - there are some challenges she will deal with for her whole life. But for now, she is slowly catching up and is reaching the goals set for her. We may always struggle with gender pronouns, we may always need to either live with her or at least very nearby. These are the things we look at for the future, just to name a few things. However, this we know with all of our hearts. Elizabeth is amazing! God has blessed her with a life so full and rich with imagination and people who love her without fear or reservation and that as long as God has her in His hand she will never really walk alone. I hope you all enjoy the rest of your week. Love in Christ, Maureen

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