Autism. It’s a word that has been in my family for many years now. My paternal cousin Robbie, now in his forties, has autistic disorder, and was placed in institutional care for many years. He lives in a group home situation and comes home on weekends. He is mostly non-verbal. I can’t imagine what life was like for Uncle Jim and Aunt Chris with five children, and the youngest being autistic, but I know they have given child raising their all.
Fast forward to 2003, the year my son Mark was born. Such a delightful, chubby baby – SOoooo good. The best, non-fussy baby I had enjoyed was Mark Thomas, our fourth child, our third son.
Michael holding Mark, 2004
During Mark’s toddlerhood we began to notice odd behaviors, like standing on tip toes in front of the t.v., flapping hands, and a lot of silence….Mark wasn’t beginning to talk, or at least form words….he’d babble and coo and rarely would cry, and when he’d cry, it was kind of more quiet crying..not the wailing out that most babies/toddlers do. Still, we thought: “different”, but thought nothing more.
I began to read and read about speech delay. I implemented some directed help in the home with sensory items and large body therapies (rolling back and front on a large sensory ball)….making the child use the non-dominant hand for painting, grabbing, holding things. Making a game of all of it. Soon, Mark’s speech began to emerge. In hindsight, I was most concerned about the speech….I felt if we could make that hurdle, we could progress with other therapies (professionally administered), and get thorough screenings.
Why did we not take him right away…for those professional therapies? Because at the time we were already dealing with an illness of mind and body in his brother four years older than him. Another son was diagnosed and being treated quite seriously and very often for OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)/anxiety. We really had our hands full at the time; but were not lax; we did as much as possible in the home setting until we could find our way clear, and have his brother more stabilized and able to deal with what would be going on with Mark.
Mark on left, Michael on right, spring 2009
It’s good we have two very neuro-typical go-getter-motivated to take on the world older children….one graduating from college in two weeks, the other half-way through. They are the other “adults” of our household and when they are here, it brings a stronger sense of normalcy to my home and home life (and home school).
I pondered at times why God saw fit for myself to raise two special needs boys….when I felt I wasn’t even a good parent to begin with!…but was just fudging my way through…..I pray to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton …A LOT.
And so…I leave you with this link, to a small story written nearly a couple of years ago now at the Autism Site about my son Mark and his first diagnosis. To date Mark is doing very well. We continue to home school and apply particular targeted therapies in the home and elsewhere. We feel that the safe environment and top notch academics of home schooling, mixed with the selective outside activities, both extracurricular and social, are all any child needs to thrive and blossom in both personhood and ability to succeed in this world. Having three siblings before him, all home schooled, Mark is benefitting from an even more enhanced home school experience that has 17+ years to back it up. I continue to pray for the graces and wisdom needed to see it through.
Thank you for reading! ….for Mark’s story, follow this link: