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Three years later…

March 5, 2012

by Sarena James

March 2009. There is a distinct photograph that hangs on the wall of my mind and when I close my eyes, I picture it clearly.  I remember the psychologist’s office with the beautifully upholstered chairs. I remember the comfortable couch lined with tasselled throw-pillows. I remember the sudden collapse of every dream I had for our son, at the sound of one word, autism.  

It was difficult to breathe freely without crying. Will our son ever speak?   Will our son be able to learn?  Will our son look into our eyes, ever again?  There were no absolute answers.   The relay-race of questions framed that moment in deep hurt and fear.  That was one thousand-ninety-four days ago. More amazingly, that was nearly five-hundred accurately spoken words ago…

September 2011, Grant began Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Therapy in the home.  Although this line of therapy is not new to us (he had a full summer program of ABA Therapy, and weekly sessions in school) it was an adjustment to have therapists in our most intimate space; a decision I do not regret.  

In just six months, he has mastered this…

You may look at this photo and see a stack of index cards. I look at this and see hope photographed.

One hundred twenty-four cards of questions the son now has correct answers for, from September to now. Questions about his family, his birthday, his residence, his school, his teachers, his surroundings, his daily routines, his comprehension, his pronunciation, his adjectives, his pretend action,… HIS STATISTICS FOREVER CHANGING FOR THE BETTER!

We have seen a phenomenal increase in spontaneous language and requests, and a decrease in his echo language.  Grant would always repeat the questions we would ask him. (Example: “Grant, do you want apple juice? His reply, “…you want apple juice?”)  Now Grant is learning to respond by answering the question specifying exactly what he wants.

He is following directions more clearly, even some that are two-step directives.  (Example: Grant, first bring the apple to Mommy, and then turn off the light in the kitchen.)  A few days ago, I had my first conversation with my son! It took five years and I breathed in every word of it!

Grant: (in tears, but clear speech) Comb Mommy’s hair.
Me: No. Not today. Mommy’s hair is rolled.
Grant: (still tears) Comb. Comb hair.
Me: No. No comb hair today. Mommy likes it.

Grant: No comb today?

Me: Not today. Mommy’s hair is curled.

Grant: Hug please.

Me: Yes, Grant, hug. Same Mommy. Same hug.

This journey has not been an easy road to travel. There have been many pot holes of tantrums and unexpected detours of learning styles, and even traffic jams of words trying to find the best route out.  The scenery is ever-changing, along with the behavior, but we have learned to stop and celebrate the smallest of victories, because they do add up.

Certainly our journey has been mapped by the inch, but we are miles away from the photo taken three years ago.  The sound of one word still changes things, but it is the sound of hundreds of words from a child who was speechless for a year, that changes fear into hope and frames our world through Understanding, Perspective, and Sensitivity.  

Grant does speak every day.  

Grant does learn every day. 

Grant does look into our eyes every day.

Everyday there is a reason to keep going, in expectation of a better tomorrow.

I now know this for sure. In the moment I would have given up, I would have given up one moment too soon.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Shontea Richardson permalink
    March 5, 2012 9:19 pm

    I really enjoy reading the success stories about your son, it’s very uplifting. Embrace and celebrate the small miracles because soon something new will happen. The word states that Behold I will do a new thing, you just watch. Keep on writing and keep on praying.

  2. Adrian Grimes permalink
    March 5, 2012 8:49 pm

    I still remember the day you told me about the diagnosis. We vowed to be there as family for each other and I am grateful to have you guys in our lives. We also vowed not to let each other go crazy no matter what life brings. 🙂

  3. March 5, 2012 7:37 pm

    Phenomenal piece Sarena, so happy to hear that you increased the size of your village by bringing ABA into your home full time. We are blessed to have the opportunity to call ourselves mom /dad to these precious children. I wish Grant continued success, joy and abundant love from all those around him. Kisses from all of us x

  4. Nora James permalink
    March 5, 2012 1:36 pm

    The darkest hour is just before daybreak! Rejoice for the sonshine!

  5. Faye permalink
    March 5, 2012 11:54 am

    “In the moment I would have given up, I would have given up one moment too soon.” How beautiful. I cannot help but believe that the way in which you write about your tender, love-filled journey with Grant will inspire someone else to hold on and never give up despite the painful detours along the way. We all can learn from your family, Sarena, whatever our own personal challenges in life may be. God bless and encourae you always.

  6. March 5, 2012 10:13 am

    I’m so glad the decision to invite ABA into your home has proven so beneficial. It’s the best kind of avalanche, isn’t it? Words just tumbling out and getting jammed up because there’s so much to say. Remember the book, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom? The reader is a little anxious that there won’t be enough space for so many letters and that the beautiful coconut tree will bend to breaking under the enormous weight. Instead, the surplus of language causes the trees to spring up, taller, and straighter, and always reaching up towards the Son! Love you all!

  7. March 5, 2012 10:07 am

    OH!!
    Yes, I just cried. Don’t judge me.

  8. Kimberly Malone permalink
    March 5, 2012 9:34 am

    This article is beautifly written, but more than that, I can feel the love and strength oozing from every word. I feel yours and Grant’s WHOLENESS! It is breathtaking–I really can’t find the words to express my deepest feelings for this compassionate and loving family. Love is the Greatest Gift of All!!

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