If any of you have watched Sesame Street recently, like me, you probably have the Letter of the Day Song stuck in your head…or you do now that I mentioned it, hehe. We just recently watched the episode with the new little girl named Julia, who happens to have Autism. Did you know April was autism awareness month? No? It’s alright, I wouldn’t have even a year ago, but it’s become something more of a factor in our lives in that short amount of time. Let me start at the beginning…
A is for Adoption…
Once upon a time (every good story begins with those four words right?) there was a mama who knew she felt the call to adopt. She told her husband about this call, and at first he said, “But our kids are almost grown and gone! I can almost walk around the house naked again!” But the wife persisted in what she knew she was being called to do. It didn’t take long for the husband to get on board, and so they began the long, emotional journey of adopting. Their plan was to adopt two little girls, close in age, and raise them together almost like twins. God laughed and said, “I have something bigger for you.” On February 21, 2006, the husband and wife signed papers officially putting them on the list to adopt overseas. On February 22, 2006, a little girl was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and God whispered to her as she lay alone, sick with pneumonia in the hospital, “Don’t worry little one, I have big plans for you.”
In June of 2006, while out to lunch with her soon to be married daughter (yours truly), the mama received a phone call. An excited woman on the other end said, “We have a baby for you!” Did I mention we were eating at a Chinese food restaurant? God has a sense of humor. They were told it would be at LEAST another six months, but possibly longer before they could go get their new daughter. The couple decided to take one last vacation alone before they started all over, and while sitting on a beach in Hawaii, in August 2006, they received another phone call. Come get your baby! It was the fastest adoption their agency had ever seen!
By October 2006, only eight months after her entrance into the world, this little girl had a family and a home in a tiny little town in California. From the beginning the new mama and daddy had to relearn everything they thought they knew about parenting. Children who have been adopted sometimes face issues and difficulties that the average person cannot always understand and fathom. The parents went to many classes, saw many specialists to get the help they needed for this much loved little lady, you can call her K. At many points over the years, the mama struggled to understand what to do. When the long anticipated, second baby girl came home from China, life got even crazier, and the challenges the mama faced with K got harder and harder. K started school, and the mama began to learn new phrases like IEP (Individual Education Plan) and go to new things like Speech Therapy.
A is for Autism…
Fast forward eleven years, and they are receiving an official diagnosis of Autism. On one hand the mama was relieved that they finally had an answer on how this little girl ticked, but on the other hand, she was devastated. She felt like she had failed this baby, that she hadn’t done enough to find out sooner, or help her more in the beginning.
The mama had to change the way she saw her baby’s future, she had to recalibrate how she spoke, responded, disciplined, and even fed her daughter. Many things now made sense, why she had a hard time at the dentist (the tools, the lights, the sounds were all too much), why she shut down when something unexpected happened.
A few weeks ago, during a somewhat bad spell, my littlest sister, E, came out of her room crying, and asked my mom, “What is it that K has again? That word that starts with an A?”
“Autism,” my mom replied.
“I don’t like it! I hate autism!” my little sister wailed. “I think she does too sweetie,” my mom wearily responded. As someone who has struggled with ADHD her whole life (including being repeatedly told by others that it doesn’t exist, that it’s all in my head, that I just have to try harder) I khave a teeny tiny glimpse into what it feels like to struggle in ways you can’t control, and that are invisible to others.
It is obvious God knew what He was doing when he brought her into our lives. He gave her parents who aren’t in the business of giving up on something when it’s “too hard.” Through the season where my mom was literally driving herself and my two little sisters down to the bay area every few days, staying in hotels, taking K to the places she needed to be to get her the help she needed, all by herself, at the time still not knowing exactly what they were even trying to help her with, my mom found out what it feels like to truly reach a place of brokenness. To have to rely on others and God to get her through something she couldn’t handle alone. My dad was working to support them, he couldn’t be there to make the trips, he couldn’t shoulder that burden, and in many ways, my mom also became a much more independent person. While learning these new ropes of special education in the school system, my mom became a fighter, something she has often lamented she was not when it came to my sister and I when we were growing up. She learned to fight for what was best for her daughter, not what the school said was “good enough.” Not to knock the school system at all! If you haven’t personally experienced what it feels like to live with someone who struggles with Autism, you just can’t truly understand what it looks like outside of a formal piece of paper mandated by the state.
A is for Acceptance…
For my little family, as my oldest son and K are just about two years apart, we have had to learn how to be compassionate on a different level. Compassionate and forgiving towards someone who doesn’t actually even realize she did something that requires forgiveness. Funnily enough though, when the diagnosis came, and I explained it to Steven, it didn’t really change much for him. She was the same person she had always been, a little loud, a little demanding, but always his friend. Kids have a funny way of seeing straight to the heart of a person and meeting them where they are rather than where they think they should be.
This past Sunday at church our pastor talked about how we all have a place at the table, and how we need to come alongside each other in community and build each other up. Make sure everyone has a seat. He likened it to a school classroom, where instead of just teaching the kids how to be good, and be quiet so they can get something done, the teacher instead focuses on teaching them how to become a community of people who have the same goal, and to accomplish it together. It’s interesting if you take someone like my sister into consideration, it’s easy to see how we need to come alongside her and help her “fit in” to the world around her. Accept her if you will. But the flip side of that is, in many ways, she has actually helped us become better people. More compassionate, more patient and more understanding people. She has helped us be more. Her place at the table was always set, we just needed her to show us how to see it.
|Meeting K for the first time in Taiwan|
|Celebrating her “Gotchya” Day 2016|