I will never forget July 23, 2010. Two years prior my husband and I were blessed with healthy and beautiful boy/girl twins. During the first two years I noticed my boy, Nate, not saying any words. He entertained himself and played nicely by himself but I felt something was not right. A friend recommended taking him to see a developmental pediatrician. My appointment was on July 23, 2010. My husband, having started a new job, couldn’t take time off. My mom came in town to watch my other kids.
The doctor was calm and gentle. He started playing games with Nate while writing down notes. Nate did not make eye contact. He did not make any sounds other than grunts or screams. He did not cooperate with the doctor. After an hour, the doctor said, “Your son has Autism.” He explained that there was a spectrum of higher functioning kids known as “Aspergers,” medium functioning kids known as “PDD-NOS” and lower functioning kids with the “Autism” label. He put Nate in the lowest category.
Tears started flowing. He gave me several pieces of literature and told me I needed to enroll Nate into a school program specializing in autism for 15-20 hours a week. He also wanted to incorporate private speech and occupational therapy. He gave me the names of two schools with programs for Nate’s age. I remember carrying Nate to the car with tears still streaming down my face, buckling him in his car seat and climbing into my seat. I just let it all out and sobbed. I called my husband. We both knew it could be Autism but an official diagnosis was heart breaking. I called my mom and two close friends who were praying. No one knew what to say. They were sad with me.
I had hopes and dreams for Nate and I felt they were shattered. Would he ever be able to live independently? Would he be able to maintain friendships? Would he be invited to birthday parties? It was frightening to not know what the future could hold.
That night I called my friend Marie who I knew from church. She had a child with special needs who went to one of the schools the doctor recommended. She offered a wealth of information about the school and also reminded me about another lady from church who owned a pediatric therapy center. I knew this woman from Bible study so I called her at home that same night. The next day she connected me with a speech and occupational therapist who were available to do evaluations the next week. I found out later that it usually takes months to get in at this clinic.
Emotionally, I grieved the diagnosis yet I became a woman on a mission. I learned about autism and researched schools and therapies. When I visited the Westview School, it seemed like the perfect fit but all the spots were filled. We put Nate on the waiting list. The week before school started a spot opened up.
Then we faced the reality of paying for the expenses. My husband took a position at a large company where he got a substantial increase in pay as well as full benefits. The insurance covered the therapy cost and did not limit us. Even with his increase in pay, the school tuition was still more than we could afford. The next day we received a call from my husband’s dad saying that a family member wanted to give us enough money to cover 2 years of Nate’s school. We were blown away by God’s provision!
A lyric in the song called “No Matter What” by Kerri Roberts says, “Before a heartache can ever touch my life, it has to go through Your hands. . .” It reminded me God knew about Nate’s autism. He was in control and has a plan and a purpose. I knew He was asking me to trust Him even though the unknown was frightening. As time passed, my grief turned to joy. The shattered hopes and dreams I had for Nate were replaced by new hopes and dreams. I had once looked at his autism as a “disability” but I could eventually see it as a “different ability!”