We were not supposed to have children.
That is what the doctors told us. my husband and I were both diagnosed with issues that would make it extremely difficult, if even possible, for us to conceive a child.
So, I started rounds of Clomid which made me a hormonal basketcase and I memorized Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health as if it were my Bible.
After several tumultuous rounds of Clomid, we decided to give up but I kept charting regularly. A couple of cycles after taking a break from the fertility drugs, my chart looked different. Finally… I was pregnant.
Aside from the fact that Lira’s conception was a miracle, there was nothing unusual about the pregnancy. During delivery, meconium was present in the amniotic fluid and they gave me Pitocin to even out my erratic contractions, but Lira was born vaginally at a healthy 9 pounds 3 ounces with no noticeable problems.
Since Lira was our first child, I watched for her developmental milestones like a child waiting up for Santa on Christmas Eve. Lira met every milestone right on time, if not early.
We were religious about getting her vaccinations on time, giving her acetaminophen before and after the shots as instructed by our pediatrician.
Something Changed in Our Baby
At about 15 months old, something began to change. Lira was not even trying to babble. She often had a distant look on her face.
On her way out of the room at our next check-up, the doctor paused and asked, “She is babbling, right?”
“No. No, she’s not,” I replied.
“She’s not making vowel or consonant sounds? Ma-ma? Da-da?”
The doctor shrugged and said, “Well, she is probably Autistic. We will talk about this again in six months,” and she walked out.
I was stunned. I looked at my mother across the room.
“Did she just say what I think she said?” she asked.
“She said that Lira might have Autism,” I muttered numbly as I gathered our things to leave. The ride home was very quiet.
I spent a few days in shock. I refused to ever go back to that pediatrician. There was a lot of staring into the mirror with this incredulous expression staring back at me. There was a lot of yelling at God. And, then, when the shock wore off, I got busy.
Autism Symptoms in Preschool
Someone in our church had a daughter who worked at a university and specialized in learning delays. I contacted her and she told me about Early Invention. I had never heard of that before.
Immediately, I contacted the EI office and they came out the following week to do an assessment. The results came back with Lira having delays in communication, self-help and fine motor. Her cognitive abilities were through the roof!
Early Invention started visiting us twice a week.
Over and over again, the ladies would tell me how intelligent Lira was and that there was no way she had Autism… but something kept gnawing at me.
- She never pointed with her index finger.
- She would run back and forth between two points and throw herself against our padded ottoman.
- She would not alternate feet on stairs.
- She loved to spin and spin and spin.
- She did not make eye contact.
- She would memorize television shows and repeat them as conversation.
The Official Autism Diagnosis
As Lira approached three years of age and transitioned out of EI, I made an appointment with a Developmental Pediatrician.
His testing was extremely thorough, including fine/gross motor, communication, cognitive, genetics, and social ability. We even had an ADOS test.
The doctor sat down with his team who had each individually assessed Lira. They came to the agreement that she was on the Autism Spectrum with PDD-NOS, Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified. In other words, she has some traits of ASD but not all.
Her doctor recommended occupational therapy and speech therapy. We went twice a week for almost four months until we discovered that our insurance was not paying. That is when I took upon her therapy myself.
Using YouTube and remembering what I saw the Early Intervention team do, I taught Lira to speak and to write.
- The Ultimate Guide to Autism Home Therapy
- How We Taught Our Child with Autism to Write
- How We Taught Our Child with Autism to Speak
I don’t remember every thinking, “Oh, this is so easy!”
Instead, I can clearly remember the pain in my fists as I threw a tantrum one afternoon.
Grieving the Autism Diagnosis
My husband had taken Lira outside to play and left me folding clothes in the floor of the living room.
Suddenly, the pressure was more than I could take. I twisted to my knees and placed my head in my hands. The tears poured and the anger swelled up inside of me. I screamed at God as my nails bit into the palms of my hands. I pounded the floor with all my might.
“Why my child? Why her? Why me?”
Friends would say, “God will not give you more than you can handle.” There was no comfort in that for me. I wanted to punch them. Instead, I beat the floor.
Friends would say, “You must be very special to be blessed with such a special child.” I didn’t feel special. I wanted to scream at them to shut up. Instead, I screamed at God.
Despite the fierceness of my tantrum, the pain in my fists could not compare to the pain in my heart.
There was a grief that no one talks about. I think that as I prepared to be a mother, I also prepared what I thought my child would be like. To be faced with a different scenario – please try to understand – was almost like putting that dream child to death. I mourned for the future I thought I had lost.
Her psychiatrist was extremely affirming and told me that I was doing an awesome job. But I didn’t always feel that way.
The Blame Game
My mind would drift and I wondered, “Was it the fertility drugs? The Pitocin? The meconium present at birth? The acetaminophen before the vaccinations? The vaccinations themselves? Something I fed her? Chemicals in our home?” I was constantly looking for an Autism cause. Something (or someone – even if it was me) to blame.
I would stand, looking in the mirror with an incredulous expression and yelling at God, but my visits to the mirror grew fewer, only triggered by an event – Lira having a manic episode or someone saying something unkind – but it was a process.
As the years have passed, the pain in my heart has softened. Honestly, I didn’t think it ever would. I didn’t think I would ever be happy to have a child with Autism. I wanted her to be typical.
But, God had a different plan. A wonderful plan.
Just as we were teaching Lira to live beyond her disability, I learning to accept her for the person God created her to be.
His plan is certain. He never falters. He is never surprised. And His plan for Lira is more than I can ever imagine.
A Child with Autism
As Lira grows, the majority of people cannot tell that she has Autism.
Between the ages of five and ten, her biggest Autism symptoms were:
- She would flap her hands in her hair or against a surface a few times a day.
- Sometimes, she would run back and forth, but her eye contact was very good.
- She was also affectionate and talkative.
- Her language was very formal.
- She had a hard time understanding cliches and jokes but her sense of humor improved.
- While she did not have a lot of friends, she did not know that.
- Lira struggled with moods and trying to self-regulate her emotions.
Despite any social delays, her cognitive testing revealed that her IQ was superior. She was officially smarter than her own doctor (by his admission).
As we homeschooled her during early elementary, she gobbled up math and reading.
- 10 in 10: Ten Reasons My Child with Autism Loves Homeschool
- Products for Homeschooling a Child with Autism
But as she approached preadolescence, she was demanding more and more of my attention. I was finding it difficult to homeschool all of my children.
My husband and I prayed fervently for wisdom, and God led us to enroll her in a private Christian school. The only obstacle was the admissions test to find her grade level.
Our super-intelligent child… the one with the IQ greater than most doctors… flunked.
The test was a total flop. (Want to talk about feeling like a failure as a homeschool mom?)
Despite the results, the school administration listened to me. I felt Lira needed to enter at the fifth grade level instead of sixth grade where her age would place her.
This amazing school was a tremendous blessing. They had never enrolled a child with Autism but were willing to do whatever was needed.
We were used to being ignored. Neglected. Even ridiculed. This situation was proof that God was working.
The entire school staff met and discussed our family’s needs. Her teacher even called us in for a parent meeting to see if he needed to adapt anything for her. We encouraged him to treat Lira as he would any child.
Then, the first report card came home. The failing grades mocked me, but I knew God has placed Lira there.
The school year felt long. Lira would have a lot of homework as she struggled to get her lessons done at school. But, by the end of the year, Lira walked across the stage at the awards ceremony more than any other fifth grade student.
After adapting to the routine, Lira began to thrive academically and socially.
We only had one incident with bullying. Some of the boys in Lira’s class were making fun of her.
But, she was completely oblivious to what was happening.
Instead, it was the school administration that called us because the teacher had noticed the situation and sent Lira to the office. The principal and children’s pastor met with the class in her absence to reprimand the offenders. Nothing ever happened again.
Now, Lira is a young teenager.
I have no idea what the days ahead have in store for us. But, I am certain that God still has a plan for Lira. He isn’t finished with her (or me) yet.
If you suspect your child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, do not hesitate to contact your pediatrician for a referral or testing. If you are afraid to contact your doctor – don’t be! – but, you can get more information through Autism Speaks.
The earlier you catch it, the better. Lira is proof of that.
- Wit and Wisdom from the Parents of Special Needs Kids book review
- Products for homeschooling a child with Autism
- The Ultimate Guide to Autism Home Therapy
- Homeschooling a Child with Autism
- Autism Therapy: Teaching Your Child about Personal Space
- Teaching Time Related-to-the-Day (Free Printables)
- Free Multiplication Worksheets & Fact Cards with Visual Cues
- Teaching Your Child to Multiply (More Free Printables)
- Teaching Your Child to Multiply on Their Fingers
- Teaching Anger Management to Children When They Hit
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