Sunday, February 10, 2013

part 2- Vander's story

It was my first homebirth and I think that is why I prayed like crazy during this pregnancy. I prayed like
crazzeeee. All the time...every day and night. I read Supernatural Childbirth. I blessed my body, and I blessed the baby. I blessed Vander with perfectly working body parts and brain. I blessed the begeezers out of him for 9 months. It was great, actually, though it sounds obsessive, and I'll admit at times it was. At first they were nervous blessings and prayers...almost like magic spells...trying to control the outcome...but that got very stressful! When I realized what I was doing I tried to go from prayers in order to gain control, to prayers in order to give up control to God. Eventually I started to believe he was covered, I was covered. It started some significant seeds of letting God really have all my worries and fears and just trusting Him. I didn't have machines and drugs and doctors there if something went wrong. It really helped me practice relying only on a good God in the end. It seems like when we have less stuff to rely on it is easier to trust God, doesn't it?

 I don't know if it was the pull of knowing he was probably going to be my last baby, or the bonding experience of giving birth at home, or just something extra that God stuck in, knowing he would need it, but man we were bonded from the beginning. I remember really feeling that we were doing the whole birth together...both working from opposite ends to the same goal. I remember looking at Vander once he was out, and saying, "We did it, buddy. We did it."

Vander grew, and I grew, and all those changes that I wrote about in Part 1 began to take root in my mind and heart during Vander's first few years.

Soon he started to talk. He said "hello" a lot for awhile when prompted. And then he sort of stopped, and never really started up again. It was like he had tried it out and thus decided it was not something he cared for.

He sang unbelievably well...a 2 year old that could hit every note in any song he knew...impressive. And he could keep a beat on the church drum set. Our drummer at church marveled at his ability at such a young age. As he kept growing I knew he could talk because he would say a word every now and again...but it was rare. I knew he understood many things because he responded to most commands, and was fast to learn new ones. He even potty trained normally, to my excitement.

It's not that he was a quiet child...he was usually really quite noisy...but he didn't have any interest in speaking. He babbled in his own language a lot, and sang out loud, high noises during his playtime just for fun.  I remember my other children at this age. They wanted to study my lips as I was teaching them words so they could mimic me, but Vander, well, he would whine, turn away, and run!

For the longest time my oldest son and I were the only people Vander seemed to relate to. He even had difficulty responded to Chad. Somewhere in the middle of age 2, right about when he stopped trying to make words, he stopped looking anyone in the eye. He stopped looking anyone but me in the face. He avoided relationships with anyone but me and Atreyu.

People would say things alluding to the fact that he might be autistic...that I should look into getting him checked. Because of the many things he excelled at, and the many behaviors of autism that he didn't express, I felt it wasn't a high priority at the time. I really wasn't worried about him because children develop so differently from one to another, especially at such a young age, and Vander was such an independent personality it seemed that he was just deciding how he wanted to do this "developing" thing. I was open to the fact that it could be true, but I just felt peaceful that it wasn't time to explore that yet. He was happy, thriving, and we were too.

I remember the day I decided to really let it sink in that he could be autistic. I started to feel fear and disappointment and I remember thinking all those sad little rotten thoughts that you think when you feel alone and lost. Then I remember getting this thought, "Wait, I love this kid and his personality and all of those things just the way he is, so if he never changes then, well, that's okay." That was the last time that the word autism really, completely scared me because I realized that in the end it didn't change anything about this kid I already enjoyed and loved just the way he was. That was a good day.

Then Vander turned 3. He knew certain things, like the names of all the letters and numbers, but then he wouldn't do other normal things like ask for anything with words...just whining. And though he comprehended most of our commands he still was socially distant from pretty much everyone. Chad and I decided that it was time to pray about what was next. I told Chad that I didn't feel like starting with a doctor was the right solution for Vander or me, and since neither of us felt we knew where to start at that moment we just prayed and waited for an answer. We assumed God would bring out the right person/program for us and Vander at whatever time that suited Him, so we just waited.

Only a few short months later, I saw a flyer for a seminar at the Homeschool Plus that my kids attend. My mother-in-law, Margaret, was interested in it as well, so we packed up Vander and attended it. It was a seminar taught by a passionate lady named Cheri Moore, and it was all about Auditory Integrative Training. I had trouble comprehending everything during the seminar, but since I had brought Vander along with me she was able to meet him...and she seemed to know things about him that even I hadn't figured out. She seemed to understand him in ways that I had never experienced anyone understanding him before. It was like she spoke both our languages, and she could translate, and teach me his language, and also teach him mine. She was also a Christian and a homeschooling mom so I was blessed to have found someone who would understand my faith and my schedule, no problem.  And she had an extremely good reputation at Homeschool Plus so I didn't have to wonder if she was worth getting involved with. We decided to work with Cheri.

Cheri believed that Vander had a hearing sensitivity in his right ear causing him to experience pain when listening to people and himself talk, and therefore was avoiding it. Auditory Integration Therapy (AIT) is a therapy program that many times corrects these issues by strengthening the middle and inner ear, which changes the way the brain has become accustomed to processing sound and creating conditions where the brain must work to process it differently. We did the AIT with him...10 days of no electric/amplified sound allowed, and two 30 minute sessions each day of Vander listening to altered music through headphones...which required me to sit with him keeping him calm and interested as he sat.

This was a game changer for me. Remember how I talked about how God started solidifying all the things He had begun changing in me during this time? The old me could not have found the patience to sit down and do nothing but commune with my child in my lap for 30 minutes...least of all a child that may have trouble sitting still that long with me. The old me needed to do chores/cleaning/art/something important constantly in order to feel satisfied. This was a new challenge to the new me. It was the first palpable, physical challenge to everything I believed had been healed in me and in my mothering. Thank God for the challenges...they show us how we've changed and give us confidence to move forward in our new form. It was definitely a test, especially at first, but the more I sat still simply enjoying my little man snuggled in my lap, with a basket of little toys we fiddled with together, the more satisfying just being a mom felt. Just being there to do nothing, but sit quietly with your kid and just be Mommy. It left me satisfied in a way I hadn't known before. It was the first true, trembling baby step where I was acting out of the change that had taken place in me. After the first day, Vander was into it. He loved it...the music soothed his ears, but I could tell that having mommy sit still with him alone for a full hour every day was just warming his heart. Both were healing forces, I'm sure.

To our huge joy, after the first few months of AIT and a booster session, Vander began to initiate play with people he had never gone near before. After about 9 months of AIT integrated with brain crossover visual/motor exercises, we felt he had progressed far enough that he was ready for more. With a recommendation from Cheri we began 3 months of screening with the state to determine a therapy placement for him. (As a homeschooling mom, I will admit that I started with very, very low expectations for this process, and for the outcome.) My amazing mother-in-law, Margaret, lovingly committed herself to go through the whole process with me. Lots of people around desks asked us lots of questions, watched us and Vander, how he did everything, and how he processed everything. When it was all said and done, the screening board analyzed all the information they had collected over the months and decided what they thought would help him best. We enrolled Vander in the recommended preschool class, aware that if it wasn't a great fit we'd just take him out and do something else on our own. But we didn't have to. He is now attending a class at a local preschool for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week with 8 other children to further his social and speech development.

If someone had told me only a year ago that I was going to be sending my cherished baby to a public preschool five days a week I would've probably had a crying fit of a freak out. But through this whole process I have watched God prepare me, change me, mold me, heal me and grow me. Every now and then I would think to myself " I feel like I'm being prepared for something" and  lo and behold, by the time I knew what that something was, I felt ready to move into it with peace and try it out. Yes, I cried and had fears the first day of school for Vander...but somewhere in all of that emotional this and that, I knew he was going to to be okay, that this was good for all of us to move through, and what we were doing would not scar him for life, and we could always change things up as needed.

I found out later that this amazing board of people that screened and placed him not only thoroughly thought about the right teacher/situation for Vander to help him excel, but they also thoroughly thought about my personality and which teacher I would  relate to best...and let me tell you they did a great job! I am not only impressed with his teacher, and how every day she walks into this school with a train of kids winding behind her, and you can just feel how much she loves them and her job, but she is also a kindred spirit, and loves Judy Garland and old jazz as much as I do. What a perk. Thanks God!

It has been over a year since we began this journey and in one year Vander has gone from using next to no speech, and very little social skills to talking and communicating needs and wants, and even love. He has friends that he enjoys being around. He initiates talk and play with others. He has just come so far. And he's taken me with him. We are both growing together. Still comrades. Just like at his birth.

Vander's teacher and class

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