Hello, and thank you for reading our story!
While on a recent business trip I (Nathan) was talking with a co-worker from Ypsilanti, Michigan about my son, Isaiah, painting and playing golf with Awakening Minds. I was telling him how much he loves it and how it has helped him grow. How he is learning so much more than painting skills. How he has improved in so many areas. My co-worker’s response;
“That is wonderful you have such place in your community.” My sentiments exactly.
Isaiah was born on August 19, 2009. His due date was originally the 24th of August but he was induced early due to his size. Originally he was schedule to be induced on the August 17th but the hospital was full so he had to wait. When I first saw him, my thought was 'wow that’s a big baby!' He tipped the scales at 9 lbs 15 oz.
As Isaiah grew he was hitting all his milestones and we were overjoyed. He crawled and walked right on schedule. He smiled and interacted with friends and family, people were always telling us what a content little boy he was. From early on, he showed a strong interest in numbers and letters. My wife Sarah begin working with him at his interest level. By 2 years old he was recognizing words, big words like Australia and Aquamarine, counting beyond 20, and knew all his upper and lowercase letters. Isaiah also was very drawn to music. He loved to listen to music on videos and he would very quickly learn to sing the songs sung to him. After we were told there were some concerns, I couldn’t help but look back to a few occurrences: Christmas when he was 2 years old when he played unprompted with a puzzle that had 6 different numbered door latches for an hour and a half straight. I thought back to watching Isaiah play with blocks and how he would line them up very precisely over and over again. How no matter where we went, he would find the numbers and letters in the room and want only to play in that area.
In looking for confirmation that these occurrences were “just a phase”, I asked a friend who I knew had and child on the Autism spectrum what he thought and he said, “Ya maybe, does he play with other kids?” “Sure” I said but I didn’t really know for sure. I asked other friends from work who had older children but made sure to pose the questions in such a way that they would agree that He’s Typical. I didn’t want to think anything but he’s just like any other kid.
A word from Mom, Sarah
With Isaiah being our first kid, like Nathan said, we can look back now through pictures and memories and see signs, but for those first two years we saw nothing but milestones met, a generally content little boy, a little guy who delighted everyone around him and astonished us daily with how quickly he could learn new things. We were convinced on the way to his 2-year appointment that the doctor would be amazed. Instead the doctor expressed concern over the lack of vocalization Isaiah had and suggested we allow Help Me Grow to work with him. We thought surely this is just a small technicality, that he would start communicating well soon. And like Nathan said, we looked for reassurance from family and friends we spoke with that this was just a small hiccup. For the next several months, therapist came to our home to play and imagine and pretend. I didn’t see the value at the time in the pretend play and was still sure that this would be a silly story we would look back and laugh about later.
And then the spring before Isaiah turned three, his Help Me Grow therapists said the word …Autism. She pointed out signs and data based on the evaluations we had filled out and data they collected from working with him. My first thought was No…No, not my baby.
Jumping ahead a bit, a couple months ago I attending a training for parents of kids on the autism spectrum. There I met a woman who spoke of her recently diagnosis non-verbal 4-year-old daughter. This woman was angry. She was hurting and still a little in denial. I remember those days. I remember the days when I flat out refused to believe Isaiah had autism…I didn’t care how much data or how many signs were pointed out. No, not my child. I remember being angry. Angry at the doctor for suggesting I bring these people into my home for them just to find something wrong with my baby. Angry at the world that I thought would never accept my child with a label. Just incredibly angry. I remember times thinking I would fix it myself. I was his mom and I was the only person that could do it alone. I remember being jealous the first time his preschool teacher helped him overcome a task that he struggled with. I remember days when I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I didn’t want to run into family or friends. I didn’t want them to ask me how things were because I just didn’t want to talk about it. There are still days when that section of my momma heart doesn’t want to open up and share my precious special guy. But most days now are me openly accepting Isaiah has Autism. It’s not who he is and it’s not going to decide who he will become because God’s already got this.
So What Does Autism Look Like for Isaiah?
Thinking back to that woman I met at the training, I realized we will all face struggles in our lives and for us having faith in Christ, a peace and joy that is only from beyond ourselves is how we have been able to move thru that grief of hopes dashed, of dreams not fulfilled and to a place of peace and even finding joy in our struggle. For those of you looking for a way to understand families who have special kids, this is what I would say, think of a time when something so incredibly dear, a dream so close to your heart, was ripped away and of your own emotional journey through that.
As much as Autism is a struggle for Isaiah and our family there are some positives about Isaiah that will never cease to amaze me: Because of autism, Isaiah doesn’t lie. He lives in a black and white literal world. We are thankful because Isaiah does eat some vegetables and for the most part is a great sleeper. Isaiah also has Perfect Pitch. He hears the world in the music tones the sounds around him make. And Isaiah can sing and hearing him sing will be a dead-stop to my day because he sings like an angel and brings me so much joy to hear his voice.
With each passing day, with each time we press him to step out of his comfort zone, which each therapy session with Ms. Amy, Ms. Megan, Ms. Sarah, Ms. Kayla, with each hour spent with caring teachers like Ms. Dawn, Mrs. Weigand, Mrs. Brim, Mrs. Bunn, with each passing moment - Isaiah becomes a little bit less rigid, a little bit more flexible and accepting of our crazy demanding world.
A word from Dad, Nathan.
I have a theory: I know God does not make mistakes and many of these special people, while having delays in some areas, are gifted in others. They are specialists! At work I am titled a Welding Specialist. Isaiah is a Math, Reading, and Music Specialist. However, we need places like AMA to bring out those special gifts. Our family thanks AMA and all of you who support such a valuable organization.
Thank you and God bless.