These past few months have been challenging my family in a whole new way. I have been spending a lot of time thinking, worrying, praying, researching, talking, meditating, adapting, ignoring, learning, growing, trying, failing, crying, and staring…I spend a lot of time staring. When it looks like I’m just staring, it’s usually because my brain is busy doing all of those other things simultaneously. It’s taken a lot of spiritual and mental preparation in order to bring me to the point of writing all of this out. It’s amazing how much your outlook on life can change when your perspective is forced to shift.
I remember the day that started me on this new path. I remember getting angry at my 5 year old son while sitting in the driveway. I remember closing my eyes and breathing slowly through the frustration. I remember feeling the hand of my 9 year old son resting on my shoulder. He understood my anger, saw that I was trying to calm down, and knew that a soft touch was an appropriate way to help ease me out of a stressful moment. I remember opening my eyes to see his look of empathy. I recall adjusting the rear view mirror to look at my youngest son. He was laying across the seat, staring straight ahead, expressionless. He had absolutely no clue as to the degree of frustration that was obviously painted all over my face. My white knuckled grip around the steering wheel didn’t seem to spark a single emotion in him. He was simply waiting for me to open the door so he could get out of the car and go inside. I’m sure you’re probably so confused right now. Why was I so upset? Clearly, my youngest son was just laying there quietly, and my oldest was comforting me. The puzzle piece that’s missing is what happened just moments before serenity settled in.
Idan asked if he could ride his bike. I said no, because it was raining. That was it. I said no, and his world crumbled. It didn’t matter that it was pouring outside, and clearly it wasn’t bike-riding weather. He began to flail his arms and legs all over the place. He screamed and wailed, and threw himself to the seat face down. Most parents would say something like, “That kid needs a good ol’ fashioned butt whooping!” But, it just isn’t the case with my Idan. He’s always been this way too, but it wasn’t until recently that everything began to make sense. Idan is part of the one percent world population born with Autism. I remember the exact moment that the thought dawned on me and the exact moment that it was confirmed by his pediatrician. Both were equally crushing, and as a mom I can’t even begin to explain the emotional roller coaster that it has been trying to come to grips with this new life chapter.
Over the past couple of months, God has been pruning my family and me, tailoring us to the different mold that He chose to use when creating Idan. It has been and continues to be a daily challenge for all of us, but I know that it’s nothing compared to the challenges that Idan faces with finding his place in this world that doesn’t make any sense to him. He isn’t broken and unable to function. He just sees and perceives the world differently than most people do-99% of the world to be more precise. His nerves, emotions, and senses are all wired differently than an average person. Everyone has their own way of coping with feelings of anger and disappointment. My husband reacts by searching for a solution immediately. I like to talk about how the problem is making me feel. Cole likes to find and place blame. These are all socially acceptable and commonly found behaviors. Idan’s feelings are displayed through tearful meltdowns and body movements, referred to as stimming (The term “stimming” is short for self-stimulatory behavior, sometimes also called “stereotypic” behavior. In a person with autism, stimming usually refers to specific behaviors such as flapping, rocking, spinning, or repetition of words and phrases). Stims are not something that can be trained away. Trying to tell an autistic person to stop stimming is like trying to tell anyone not to blink or sneeze. It’s a crazy thought to try and force someone to do or stop doing something that comes perfectly natural to them, and I never understood that until God began to teach me through Idan.
Now that I’ve gone through all of the emotions accompanied with the realization of Idan’s workmanship, I’m prepared to do whatever it is that God has in mind for me, as Idan’s mom, Cole’s mom, other parents of Autistic children, and the population of folks who don’t understand the world that people on the spectrum live in. The biggest thing that I’ve come to grips with so far is that although our family is adjusting to suit Idan’s needs, we still each need to express ourselves in the ways that we have been individually and specifically designed. My husband makes and executes plans, Cole draws and sketches. I talk and write. It’s the way that we operate. I need to write through all of this, and I need to know that I have a community of support that is ready to listen and walk through this with me.
I have so many people who are there to offer suggestions and helpful advice, and we are going through the process (lengthy and time consuming process) of receiving medical assistance for Idan. I am the research queen! So believe me, I’m reading articles, watching videos, and educating myself and my family on how we can make Idan’s life easier to manage. We have an overload of ideas and thoughts and dietary changes and textural modifications going on in our home on a daily basis. We are slowly learning Idan’s specific place on the spectrum, and each new milestone is something that takes lots and lots of planning and executing to achieve (grateful for a husband with these gifts). So, we are in excess of ideas and information right now. What we need most is listening ears and prayers for energy and gentle patience to be displayed through our faces and actions. Idan is still a 5 year old boy, after all, and he still has a very important big brother who doesn’t need to be lost in the mix. Now that that’s all been thrown out there, I will be posting periodically on the progress of our family’s growth. I know that God has hand-picked each of us for such a time as this.
Embracing the Crazy,