Monday, January 22, 2007

Asperger's Journey - Continued

Wow. You guys are humbling. Thank you for your encouragement. Funny how things never happen the way you think they will. I figured this would be where most would check out for a few weeks. So thank you, for all that you said. It really really touched and surprised me. :-)

And how about Friday night of workshop?.. AIM reunion at our house after the evening speaker? I'll provide a big room and refreshments. Spread the word. :-)

***
Continuing the journey....

So within about 6 months, we learned that not only regular schools, but preschools and daycares weren’t always geared towards kids who “think” like Eli did, either.

He did okay with some things. But he wouldn’t finger paint. (Or do anything messy.) This never changed until we met his present teacher,Cindy.
I can remember one day at preschool he was in trouble because he refused to participate in a class activity that involved getting height and weight, and he didn’t want to step on the scale. He threw a fit. He appeared obstinate – even at 3, over ridiculous things. ( I later learned he was scared of the blinking red numbers on the scale.) Incident after incident left us confused about what was going on in his mind and why he would be so difficult. Desires to want to parent better so he wouldn’t be in trouble all the time just exasperated the process, b/c we didn’t understand what motivated the behavior in the first place. Counseling, therapy, testing…. Countless appointments and no real certain answers. As a few more years went by, his struggles got worse, adding aggression to others into the mix, and by age five he began to struggle with depression. He was smart and sensitive enough to know he wanted to be accepted, and yet struggled with enough issues that he recognized he was always in trouble and wasn’t accepted, by friends or teachers for the most part.

I can remember Eli coming home and sharing that he really would rather just go to heaven than be alive. I loved that he loved Heaven. I hated that at five he already hated life. That was the hardest year, so far. Because I couldn’t fix it.

On the flip side, teaching for a year blessed me with sympathy for teachers. It is difficult to have kids with special needs in a classroom of 15 or 20. And even harder when you or the parents aren’t even sure what you’re dealing with. Behavior just keeps you from teaching regardless of why. Your not a therapist, or a doctor. And it’s easy to wonder if the parents are being parents. I keep that year in mind often.

We began Kindergarten, transferring into a school across town. This was an amazing story of God – because we prayed about this, and it was the last school on my list of choices….but God had lined us up exactly where we needed to be. I just didn’t know why, yet.

Up until that point, I didn’t tell teachers at first that there was a problem with Eli. Mostly, because I didn’t know what the problem was. I kept thinking “Maybe they won’t notice this year….”. I genuinely hoped that.
But, I gave that up for kindergarten. When we went to meet his teacher, I took a letter and handed it off at the last minute before we left. I was scared. And embarrassed. I didn’t know what she would think. And I was depressed before we even started the year. But I knew I had to tell her the year would be difficult. I wanted to let her know the little I knew in hopes of helping him some. I hoped, but wasn’t sure she would care. It wasn't the start I had always imagined.

We walked out of the room after meeting her before school began and made it halfway down the hall. Suddenly his teacher came back out the door, holding the open letter. I don’t know how she’d already read it, honestly. But she stopped us. And she told me that she’d written letters like that herself for years on behalf of her own son, who struggled with similar issues. She had taught special need students for years, and began naming some things she thought we could try to start with. And I can’t remember what else she said after that, because at that moment I was too overwhelmed in the realization of why God had us walk through that door to meet her. And I hugged her. Well, in my memory, I embraced that woman, and I remember walking away hoping that display of emotion wasn’t too overwhelming. But I had hope again. That God had a plan. That He hadn’t walked away. I’d be dishonest if I didn’t admit my days of not being sure about that. But in that moment, I stood humbled and repentant and thrilled and floored.

And so began a relationship that would turn Eli’s world around in this area. The next two years would be a whirlwind of progress and education. And friendship. And hope.

God is good. He can move people all over the globe at just the right time. And one person, in the right place at the right time, really can make a difference in the lives of many....

11 comments:

Angie said...

I got in from a friend's house *late* last night... and the first thing I did was get on the computer to see if you had a new post! I figured you would write in the evening. And I was so pleased to find this.

It's just so beautiful, Heather, to see God not only provide for Eli... but for Him to show His provision for your needs. I'm sure there was a time that you or Jason wouldn't have even wanted to talk about this with others... But God has de-mystified it and helped you process it and here you are blogging about it! I love that! Now you're helping *us* and I for one am super-grateful!

Shawn said...

I just want to love on the Thornton family. I am so thankful that your journey brought you to Tulsa. I know that my family has been blessed over and over again by your sweet family. Eli.....I love him so much. Such a great little boy. I love his sense of humor, his intensity, his kindness, his joy, I think I even sense a little lion in the boy. You know I love that. Thank you for allowing God to lead you through this. Thank you for being assistants to Eli's growing and evolution. You are very right...it is a journey that God is leading. Man does that bring rest and relief. Thank you.

Jill said...

Wow! How wonderful that God put the perfect person in the right place at the right time for Eli! I shouldn't be surprised at his faithfulness, but it never ceases to amaze me. Thanks again for sharing Eli's story. I am really touched.

Jeanne said...

Heather, thank you so much for sharing all this. God has indeed been good to your family, to Eli, and to such a wonderful teacher. Praise God for parents & teachers who see beyond behavior and attitude to the heart of a child that is there just waiting for someone to love them enough to make the effort to understand them. Eli is a blessed boy to have you as his parents and Cindy as his teacher. You and Jason, and Cindy are double blessed to have Eli as your son and student. He has a gift to give the world, thank you for helping him discover how to unwrap it! May God bless your journey!

Brenda said...

Heather, this post is just amazing and gives me such hope and encouragement. I know we will both be there for each other to lean on. This proves so much that God was there to watch over Eli and make sure he was put in the proper place to excel! That makes me smile.

We signed our papers today during the "meets" session. My first time ever to have to sign that pink file folder. That's when reality hit me....it was an emotional moment. Thank you for displaying strength and courage as you guys are walking through this.

Dusty said...

Heather, please keep writing. There's something about your story that is good for our souls. I'm lovin' it!

MommaFlee said...

Heather, I'd like to echo Dusty's words and say please don't stop writing. And I think a book is a good idea girl! God has gifted you so...you must share it with all! Thanks for the rest of the story. Sure makes me love and respect you and Jason that much more...but then, I already did. Your faith amazes me and I am thanking God, today, for your heart. Eli is blessed to have you and Jason. Love to you and your sweet family...flee

Tammy B said...

Heather, I just love your family so much! Thank you for writing about Eli and how God works in all things. Somehow I don't think we could be reminded of His works enough. I tend to forget too soon...thank you for showing me Him one more time and for being so open to his working in Eli and in just everything! Now before I gush too much...*hugs*

Heather Winter said...

Dear Heather- Wow, I am in tears at your honesty and open heart. God's power is made perfect in us through our weakness so He can be shown All Powerful. We NEVER have struggles that God doesn't know about and have "beyond our comprehension" plans for. God has HUGE plans for you and your little guy...in fact He has obviously already got to workin'! God Bless you Heather. And thanks for this, you are an inspiration. Lots of love-Heather Winter

Cindy said...

Brenda...I have thought of you often this week, since I read your post to Heather. I have been on both sides of the IEP process many times as a parent and as a teacher. The first meeting is the worst as it marks the end of one dream and the start of a new journey. I would like to meet you and your son sometime. Prayers are coming your way.
Heather...love you and thanks for helping all of us out of the Asperger closet as we journey with our children. Words can't do justice for how much your strong faith helps all those around you.

The Harris Family said...

Heather, I just wanted to say thank you for your posts. Your honesty with your experiences leave my heart feeling thankful for our Father. Give your kids a hug from California for us. Love you guys.
Michelle Harris