Sunday, May 31, 2020

The UGLY side of autism

I don’t always talk about all the deep dark negatives that come with living the special needs life. I like to stay positive and think on the things of God...of HIS truth. Ultimately, that’s ALL that matters. But I do live in the world. And it can sure be hurtful. And sometimes it’s beneficial to share those things, right? 

I can’t speak to how it feels to be the target of racism. I never will. My skin color shields me from experiencing racism.  However, I can speak on what I know about discrimination. I know that disability has changed the way I view the world. I thank God for autism and I thank God for how disability has changed my family. I thank God that Jacob’s struggles allowed my eyes to be opened to prejudice. Don’t get me wrong, it hurts me that people don’t look at Jacob as their equal. But I am thankful to have a greater understanding of prejudices in this world. 

No, our situation is not nearly the same as what the black community is experiencing and I would NEVER imply that. But I’ve seen people avert their eyes when Jacob's acting odd more times than I can count. I’ve also seen people stare at us nearly everywhere we go. Ive heard whispers, not just from kids, but from adults. I’ve seen many, many moms pull their kids away from him. Add in the service dog and we are stared at like a freak show. 

It’s hard, y’all. Sometimes people look on us in fear, but usually just because we are odd. I’ve heard the rudest and most hurtful comments. I’ve felt judgements. I can’t imagine what it’ll be like when he is making noises as a large male teen or adult. I’ve read articles of instances of police mistaking individuals with autism for people who are aggressive or non-compliant because they don't understand commands and harming them. I’ve heard of moms terrified about police encounters with their adult male children with autism. 

This is not even remotely compared to the amount of horrific racist encounters, but enough to absolutely terrify me. What if Jacob won’t comply? What’s if Jacob won’t answer questions? I can’t even prep him for that. And all of this pales in comparison to what the black community experiences and the racism they’ve endured for years. But do you know what it has shown me? It's shown me that Jacob is NOT considered equal in the eyes of most. People abort babies just because of disability because they feel they aren’t even worthy of life! It’s horribly sad. This doesn’t even touch on what the black community is experiencing. 

But,  I'm thankful for God opening my eyes to this world. I am thankful for God showing me the incredible value of Jacob's life and every single life of individuals with disabilities. How differences are something to celebrate, not to discriminate against.  I am thankful that is true for every race as well. 

All I have is one tiny voice and our tiny experiences, but I will speak up for those that are marginalized. And a lot of tiny voices add up to one BIG voice. I see how incredibly disgusting and wrong it is. Im thankful to God for opening my eyes to my biases and convicting me to my core. God reveal our racism and help us to love as you do! We are ALL created in Gods image.  

If you haven’t searched your heart yet, if you’re confused about all that is going on or if your heart is hardened to this because of riots or protests, I urge you to pray.  No, violence is NEVER the answer. The riots will end, by the grace of God, but the racism will continue.  

I beg and plead with you to ask God to reveal these biases to you so that you can repent and learn to love like Him! I ask you to share your disgust about racism publicly and stand up for truth in any way you can to be productive and helpful. Please speak with your children about racism, about differences, and about standing up for what's right. It's not an easy subject, but when you say nothing, it says a lot. Do not insight more anger and violence, but encourage people to love, respect, and unify together. 

What I know from my very small life is that God can create something new from something very broken. The old me is gone and I cannot give enough thanks to God for that.  God can give you a new heart, too.  A heart that sees things differently.  A heart that loves all of God's creation the way HE does.

'I once was lost, but now I am found.' To God be the glory. 

"My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory." James 2:1

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Why I Share the Full Easter Story with My Son Who Has a Cognitive Disability


Celebrating Easter should always include sharing the good news of the Gospel with those we love.  The story of God’s perfection, our sinfulness and separation from God, and the saving work of Jesus is the ultimate Easter message. As Christians, our love and value of people go hand in hand with sharing the good news.  But, does the good news of the Gospel apply to those with intellectual disabilities?  Should we share about Jesus’ death and resurrection with them when we don’t know if they can respond?

Since Jacob has autism and speech and language communication disorder, it is often tempting to do everything for him and to simplify life.  For instance, Cret and I can tell that he wants milk when he is looking in the refrigerator, so we get it for him.  We can tell when he is frustrated at the sound of thunder and we quickly grab his headphones for him.  Though his therapists continuously remind us of the hindrance we can cause when we assume instead of having him ask us for things verbally, we still occasionally take over.  Since each word and thought he has is slowly articulated, we often answer for him when we are in a rush or not thinking.

People that teach individuals with special needs can sometimes make this mistake, as well.  The Gospel may not be preached because of the assumption that the learner doesn’t understand right from wrong or the concept of God and His good story.  While merely singing songs and loving on students or our children is good intended and may well be appropriate for some, often the most growth comes from not placing limits on them and raising expectations for them in a reasonable way. I love to watch Jacob and observe for potential opportunities to teach him about God in a deeper and meaningful way.  Most importantly, we should never assume that God cannot work amazing things in and through people with cognitive differences.  Colossians 1:16 says, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” 

Just like when I share the Gospel with neurotypical individuals, I describe God, man, sin, Jesus, and ask if they want to make a decision to place their trust in God.  However, sharing the Gospel to someone with a cognitive disability can be more challenging if there are language barriers.  My son, for instance, thinks in a very concrete and literal way.  Therefore, I try to share the Gospel in a way that he can understand.  Just as we have Gospel tracts for children, I believe it is valuable to try and discover ways to share the Gospel to thinkers like my son. 

I like to keep a few helpful things in mind. First, I try not to overcomplicate things.  Just like when I modify curriculum for individuals with communication disorders, I make sure I use language that is easy to understand and direct. Next, I don’t discriminate based on cognitive ability.  Many people are under the assumption that individuals that are nonverbal or that have cognitive impairments can’t understand the Gospel, but that is absolutely not that case for everyone.  It is incredibly dangerous to assume someone is incapable of making the decision to live for Christ and the consequences of assuming are far too great.  I have seen many accounts where parents or caretakers are amazed to realize their children understand so much more than they ever thought possible.  Mark 16:15 says, “And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” I trust the Lord’s goodness and grace with those that can’t comprehend, and I believe sharing the Gospel with all of God’s people acknowledges their value and dignity.  Last, I ask them if they want to make that decision to trust in Jesus and make Jesus the boss of their lives.  I continue to share the Gospel again and again and I pray for them before and after I share that God will open their eyes to His truth.
Sharing the Gospel doesn’t have to be a 30-minute conversation and it doesn’t have to be in a perfect ‘tract’ format.  I like to have a conversation.  Here is one example of how I would share the Gospel with a child like my son:

God is our creator.  Here look at your windchime.  Someone created this windchime.  That means they made it.  Just like you make silly videos on your iPad.  Well, God made us! But God is different than the person that made this windchime.  Do you know how?  God has never done anything bad ever.
Can you think of something that you have done that is bad?  What about when you hit your brother or when you threw a fit?  Those were bad things. The Bible says that everyone does bad things or things that God doesn’t want us to do.  You do, the person that made your beautiful wind chime does, and even Mommy does bad things!  Everyone does! But not God.
God has a rule about those bad things.  Those bad things mean that we can’t be with God now and we go to a very bad place forever after we die.  It means we are in trouble.  Mommy’s punishment for bad things is time out.  God’s punishment means not being with God forever.
But guess what? God did a very good thing for you.  He sent his son, Jesus, to take the punishment for the bad things we do so that we don’t have to get that punishment!
Jesus died on a cross and then rose up from the dead and that was the full punishment.  If you believe that and make Jesus the boss of your life and you can be with Jesus forever.  You don’t have to go to the bad place when you die, you get to be with God.  Making Jesus the boss of your life means listening to God.  Mommy can help you to learn about God by reading the Bible to you.

I want to encourage you not to underestimate your child’s/student’s ability to learn, understand, or accept God’s truth.  I believe God is capable of opening anyone’s eyes.  As we embark upon an Easter Sunday like no other due to the Coronavirus quarantine, wont’ you be faithful to share the Gospel with all people. I pray this Easter many individuals with cognitive impairment will come to a saving faith in Christ.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Night to Shine


On February 7th Woodridge hosted Night to Shine (NTS), Sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation.  NTS is a prom for individuals with special needs centered around God’s love for all people.  What makes NTS unique is that it is run by volunteers from all over, not just church members.  We had teens and adults from Humble, Kingwood, Atascocita, and even as far as Conroe come out to help.  There were volunteers from local auto companies, charity organizations, and even therapists/nurses came out to dance and karaoke the night away!

God tells us to love like Him and to share the good news with all and of course that includes individuals with special needs, but the world often forgets or neglects this population.  I see it as a special needs mom often.  Our kids, teens, and adults with special needs aren’t typically valued and honored in the way others are, and that simply isn’t God’s truth or desire.

 As the Special Needs Ministry Director, I was in charge of training the buddies for NTS.  Each buddy was assigned to hang out with an honored guest for the evening.  I noticed how some of the buddies were a bit uneasy at first.   I certainly didn’t blame them…differences can be scary, can’t they?  They wanted to do a good job, but were curious if they were trained enough, had enough gifts or talents, or if they were going to say the right things. Some had never interacted with individuals with special needs and were apprehensive. 

The night started out with people without disabilities talking to individuals with special needs, but it ended with barriers and walls being torn down and people simply talking to people. Everyone was dancing, singing, eating and laughing. That is God’s love-breaking the barriers of differences, abilities, backgrounds, and anything else that may be getting in the way to simply show people that they are loved and valuable to God.  Each is so valuable that while God is perfectly without sin and our sin separates us from Him, He sent his only son, Jesus, to live a perfect life so that He could take the punishment of our sin for us. When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead on the third day, He paid our punishment in full! He died for every single person, and that includes individuals with special needs.  Because He loves us, we love.  Because He gave His best for every single person, we gave our honored guests the royal treatment.  It doesn’t take anything special in and of ourselves to love and value individuals with special needs, it doesn’t even take a prom.  It simply takes a willing heart and God’s love.  

I know that our world isn’t where it should be when it comes to disability acceptance, but I saw bridges being built and barriers being broken down little by little that evening and it was truly beautiful.  Seeing God’s love being poured out simply took my breath away.  Thank you to all that came and displayed for me and for our honored guests this kind of love. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Jacobs new school and new changes



Jacob has been attending his new clinic for a while now.  We have seen some incredible changes and some not so incredible changes.  For the last few months, they have been encouraging Jacob’s speech by giving him access to almost anything he wants if he uses full sentences…within reason of course.  So, if he picks up his books and asks to go do his work in a quieter room then they allow him to do so or if he asks to go see a specific teacher, they let him.  Because of this we have seen a dramatic increase in speech at home.  He still isn’t having conversational speech, but he is requesting things all the time with full sentences. 

There are still times when I ask about his day or how he feels and he looks at me and starts humming a song or he gives his usual answer and I wonder if he knows what I am asking or how to reply without the robotic “I am good, how are you” response.  We still aren’t sure how much he understands when it comes to things that aren’t concrete.  However, he does understand things like “go brush your teeth, hand me the soap, make your bed” and he listens to instructions very well.  He has even discovered his deepest love for the word NO. 
We are thrilled that he can tell people no and that he can tell us specific things about his day like when I asked him who bit him at school.  He couldn’t tell me that it hurt or made him sad, but he did tell me exactly who did it, and that was a huge win!  However, we have seen some unexpected behavior. Lately, he has been engaging in lots of stereotopy and hand flapping and imitating negative peer behavior since starting at the new school, including loud screaming fits.  He is typically a pretty chill kid, so this has been quite a difference.  He runs into the living room and jumps on my lap and yells silly made up words in my face over and over, which at first is very funny, but quickly becomes less than funny by the 100th time.  He screams when he goes into the bathroom for no reason and he uses his loudest voice to scream for things in the grocery store wondering why I am not caving to his every wish like the school is.  Sometimes it feels overwhelming.
It’s hard to remember to be thankful for the growth when the negative is so obtrusive.  While on vacation I finished a book called The Hiding Place and I was reminded of God’s call to be thankful in all circumstances, not just the good ones. 
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
These women in a concentration camp trusted God so much that they gave thanks for fleas in their room before even knowing that those fleas would be what God used to keep the guards away.  It was so convicting to me.  Obviously, my situation pales in comparison to even a fraction of what these women went through, yet I struggle sometimes to see how much I have to be thankful for…especially when the roller coaster of autism is at a low point. 
In the book, when Corrie was unable to see how she could be thankful for fleas, her sister encouraged her.  When she was unable to see how she could forgive, her sister encouraged her.  Once again, I was reminded of how important Godly community is in my life.  Reading books like this, talking to my friends that pray for me and encourage me in Christ and leaning on friends from church means so much when I am struggling.  Pointing me back to the Lord and realizing that I am incapable of getting through this without Him is what I desperately need in my life.  One of my favorite quotes from Corrie Ten Boom was, “It is not my ability, but my response to God’s ability, that counts.”  In so many areas of my life, I feel I am not qualified, but God is.  If I am in His will, He will help me. 
I am so thankful for  my family, for Jacob, and for his autism.  I am thankful for my church and my friends.  I am thankful for this new clinic and Jacob talking so much more at home and becoming more expressive.  I am thankful he is saying NO more because that means he is expressing HIS feelings and not just what people tell him to think and do.  God is so good!
My prayer for you is that you find a community of believers to help you through life and to guide you back to Christ when times seem the most tough.  Even when you feel you can’t, try to give thanks.  There are ALWAYS things to be thankful for.  Allow God to give you a heart that genuinely beams with appreciation for all He has done.  


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Numbered Pancakes


I decided to stop making numbered pancakes for Jacob this year.  I’ve made pancakes in the shape of the grade each of my kids are in for their first day of school for years.  It’s become such a tradition for my older son and daughter that they march right into the kitchen on their first day with huge expectant grins on their faces waiting to see their custom breakfast. 


  But for Jacob, I always just make his number and take a pic…knowing that he isn’t in that grade.  This year he would technically be classified in the 3rd grade (he's a summer baby). The closest thing we have to a “grade level” is at church where he just graduated the kindergarten class. We are hopeful that he will be able to remain in the 1st grade class.  It doesn’t have free time and the kind of structure that kinder did, so we still aren’t sure.  Jacob is super smart, but the idea of him growing up seeing these numbers that don’t apply to him made me sad.  Why have I continued to do that?  In my mind I have these silly expectations that really only bring heartache, all while I could be celebrating his unique talents.  

So, I made Jacob a big ole fat chocolate heart pancake this year.  A heart to represent how much we love Jacob just as he is.  A heart to represent how much we love his hard work and his silly personality.  A heart to represent that we will always accept him no matter where he stands educationally or how many milestones he’s met.  A heart to represent how much we love when he talks, sings, stems, and every other little thing about him.  A heart to show him that we can celebrate him just as he is. As he grows up and becomes more like the boy God created him to be and less like the boy I have envisioned or made up in my mind, I hope that I can continue to grow in my acceptance and understanding of him.  It’s not only ok that he doesn’t have a “grade” to fry up on the stovetop, it’s extraordinary.  He is unique and that’s something to celebrate!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Nowhere To Go



“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me besides still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”(Psalm 23:1–3)

Every now and then people tell me that I am a really strong mom.  I laugh and shrug and say thank you or try to explain that I'm really not.  But in all seriousness, I AM NOT STRONG!  Weeks like this past one literally bring me to knees.  I have crying fits or little freak outs every single time I am blind-sided by new challenges with autism.

Then I find myself faced with a decision.  The decision to linger there or the decision to turn to Christ.  Every single time something comes up I go through this. Every. Single. Time.

So, I have to pick myself up and beg for God to give me peace and wisdom.  I have to remind myself…scream to myself that God is good.  Then I have to put my money where my mouth is.  Will I trust that what God has planned for us is ultimately for our good and His glory, or will I not?  When there is literally nowhere to go, will I wait on the Lord and trust? There’s only one way that I know to fight my freak out thoughts and that’s with truth.

Yesterday I finally got to bring Jacob to a local ABA clinic to let him try out a social skills class.  Upon arriving I immediately knew that the class wasn’t right for him.  It was kids ages 6-12 that were all verbal and walking on their own and making decisions.  I told them they may need to drop him down to the lower class, but they insisted on taking him in to try.  Not long after, they let me know that the director had brought him to the 4-6-year-old class.  After attempting to participate, they let me know that he needed 1 to 1 and couldn’t be alone in a class like that.  These were not classes with typical peers, but classes for kids on the spectrum. My heart sank.

It’s not a huge surprise, although it was gut wrenching.  These classes are for kids on the spectrum, but he isn’t able to participate.  He still needs 1 to 1 ABA therapy to learn how to attend to a lesson, how to follow through with commands, how to be social, and especially language skills.
However, the clinic that Jacob attends (that is 1 on 1 ABA therapy) is drastically cutting his hours.  He is in a clinic that goes up to age 10. His therapist told me that because he is so old, there aren’t opportunities for him to learn from kids that are higher functioning there, so they feel that he needs more. The problem is that there isn’t a place for Jacob.

A public-school class is too language driven for him to understand it and a special education class wouldn’t move as fast academically as he needs.  Jacob learns skills very fast when he is shown the skill, but his language is severely lacking. It’s a very difficult thing to explain.  The clinic that he needs to be at still has a 18-24 month waiting period.  So here we are stuck in this weird place with nowhere to go, no classes that fit his need, and a huge reduction in ABA hours that 3 different clinics say he needs. It may not seem like a huge deal to others, but for me, realizing that we haven't come as far as I assumed we were and realizing we probably are not at the school where we need to be, is a really hard pill to swallow.

Last week we dealt with severe panic attacks at the clinic from rain, Jacob trying to rip a lightbulb out of a fixture and cutting himself, then finding Jacob in his bedroom with a huge bloody face with no known reason and he can’t verbalize what happened and now this huge cut in hours at the clinic. To top that off, he can’t participate in the social skills classes I have been waiting and hoping were right for him.

We are at a point where there is nowhere to go. At least, I have no idea what to do for him right now.  So today, I am praying this to myself. 

“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me besides still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
(Psalm 23:1–3)

In the past, I’ve only ever read that as a sunshine and roses verse.  God does great things in our lives and our lives will be so happy and pretty and perfect.  But, that isn’t the promise from God.  In troubled times, God is my shepherd.  What more could I want than for God to lead me, to still me, to calm me, and to guide me into His will and for His purposes, even if I am in troubled times? 
Ultimately, Jacob’s treatment is not what I need most or even what Jacob needs most. We need Jesus most and we need to glorify God most.  So, I pray today that God gives me wisdom to know how to use this time of stand still to honor Him, reflect on Him, to love him deeper, and to trust in Him more.  I am thankful that God gives me so many hard and challenging opportunities to realize and feel my great need for Him.  I shall not want, because the Lord gives me everything I need for my good and for His glory, not everything in this moment to make me or Jacob comfortable and happy.

If you are struggling with current circumstances, I encourage you take this time to grow closer to God. If you do not know God and want to have a relationship with the Lord please know that you can.

The Bible says that God is the creator of all things.  He is holy, that means he is perfect. He has never sinned and will never sin.

Romans 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

However, the Bible says that man is sinful and in need of forgiveness from our rebellion against God.
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
The Bible says that the punishment for our sin is death; separation from God here on earth and for all eternity.  Because God is holy and just, our sin literally cuts us off from Him.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death
But God loves us so much that he didn’t leave us here in our depravity.  He gave us a way to reconcile our relationship with Him.  He gave us a way to be made holy in His eyes.  He sent His only son, Jesus, to come and live a perfect life, die on the cross to pay the punishment for our sin (past, present, and future) and conquer death by rising from the dead on the third day.
Romans 5:8  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
If you believe this and confess Jesus is Lord of your life, you will have salvation.  You can be made right with God and have a personal relationship with God.  Confess your sin, repent and make Jesus the boss of your life and you can have salvation!
Romans 10:9-10 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Why is Easter Important?



Do you ever wonder why  Easter is so important? What does it say about God?  How does it affect us?  How should it change us?
A lot of people know it is the observation of Jesus’ death on the cross, but don’t really know why that’s so important.
I blog about Jesus and His salvation, how HE alone gets me through this life with hope and joy, so I wanted to share with you about how you can have that same hope and joy and salvation.

The Bible says that God is the creator of all things.  He is holy, that means he is perfect. He has never sinned and will never sin. 
Romans 1:20
20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
However, the Bible says that man is sinful and in need of forgiveness from our rebellion against God.
Romans 3:23 
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
The Bible says that the punishment for our sin is death; separation from God here on earth and for all eternity.  Because God is holy and just, our sin literally cuts us off from Him.
Romans 6:23
23 For the wages of sin is death
But God loves us so much that he didn’t leave us here in our depravity.  He gave us a way to reconcile our relationship with Him.  He gave us a way to be made holy in His eyes.  He sent His only son, Jesus, to come and live a perfect life, die on the cross to pay the punishment for our sin (past, present, and future) and conquer death by rising from the dead on the third day.
Romans 5:8 
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
If you believe this and confess Jesus is Lord of your life, you will have salvation.  You can be made right with God and have a personal relationship with God.  Confess your sin, repent and make Jesus the boss of your life and you can have salvation!
Romans 10:9-10
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

For me, the severity of my sin was enormous. The depths of hurt and pain from sin was so profound and my rebellion from the Lord seemed too far for forgiveness.  However, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was so much bigger.  God, in His perfection, created a way for our forgiveness and reconciliation to Him.  Because He is perfect, I trust His perfect plan for my life, no matter what that means.  Because of His sovereignty over all things, I have hope that life is bigger than me and that the future is filled with HIS magnificent glory. That joy supersedes circumstances. In fact, the forgiveness that I have received, though I never deserved, is so sweet and so wonderful it changed my heart.  The Lord literally gave me a new heart.
I urge you to seek the Lord.  Cry out to God and ask for forgiveness.  Confess and turn from your sin and ask for Jesus to be your Lord.
I pray for your salvation. I know many of you are hurting.  Struggling through constant trials, seeing your children suffering, and being a full-time caretaker is hard.  Life can be incredibly hard.  While becoming a Christian doesn’t promise you a life of ease, it does promise you a life of purpose, hope, and joy despite those burdens.  I know personally that in my sin, I was completely desperate and lost.  I was searching for joy, but everything fell short.  Surrendering my life to the Lord and serving the Lord brought me peace and more joy than I could’ve imagined.  My struggles and fears pale in comparison to God’s power and peace.

Romans 15:13 
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.