|"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made" Ps 139:14|
Lots of you already know, but we haven’t really ‘put it out there’ yet, that Eli was diagnosed this past fall with high functioning autism - also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). He is considered to be on the spectrum mainly due to communication delays and sensory issues. He struggles with fine motor skills, transitions, maintaining eye contact, and sleeping among other things. But I think the most noticeable thing is probably his communication – the older he gets the more obvious it becomes that he simply isn’t able to communicate as well as other kiddos his age. He typically can answer yes/no questions and is getting better and better at answering ‘wh’ questions (who, what, where, etc.)
I think, as is the case with lots of parents in our shoes, we were very apprehensive about Eli being labeled as autistic - even if it was just to a low degree. Mainly because we didn’t have a good understanding of autism. It just seemed like such a negative thing, and we struggled with the idea of him being different and possibly an outcast. The process of him being tested and diagnosed was a scary and difficult time for us as parents.
However, the more we learn, the more we understand that autism isn’t necessarily a struggle for Eli – it’s just him. It’s how his brain prioritizes and filters the world around him. It’s that he can be so intensely focused on observing and memorizing, that it leaves little room for his brain to process communication. He’s simply on a slightly different wavelength than a ‘neuro-typical’ person, and that is perfectly fine! He’s still full of so much joy and so much love. I honestly wouldn’t change a single thing about him – through my mom goggles, he is perfect. God has an awesome plan for him.
The best thing about this autism label is that it has qualified Eli to receive focused and individualized help. He attends a special education preschool through the public school system and it has been wonderful for him. The classroom is set up specifically for kids who have similar needs as Eli does. They bring in speech and occupational therapists who work with him once a week, and the progress that he has made since starting in January has been amazing. He has a detailed IEP and will eventually be mainstreamed sometime in his early elementary years – whenever it’s best for him.
So I just wanted to share this with you all, especially in light of Autism Awareness Day today. Chances are you are close to someone on the spectrum, and I encourage you to try and understand their wavelength just a bit better. Through friends and Carey’s line of work, we are now close with several kiddos on the spectrum and they are incredible. We love them – not for their ‘disorder’ or because they are ‘special’ – but because they are full of life, and imagination, they love to be loved, love to have fun, love to play, and they have their own, unique set of gifts from God… just like every other kid :)