My oldest son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder) in August of 2015.
It was a devastating blow to my psyche.
Several months before he was diagnosed, my husband and I had talked to our pastor about some of our son’s concerning behaviors. H encouraged us to see a doctor.
We sought the help of our pediatrician, a family doctor at our church, and then we finally got an appointment with a psychologist, after being on a waiting list for several months.
I met with her a handful of times, during which, I described my pregnancy, his birth, his toddler years and his current state, a six year old at the time.
Many of his current behaviors had become very strange and very compulsive.
- He would drive a little car through our living room, traveling the exact same route, numerous times throughout the day. We could never persuade him to go another way. If we tried to encourage him to go another way, he would get angry and insist on going his initial route.
- He would stare at the clock for hours and watch each minute tick by. If he happened to miss a minute, he would become very upset—and would often times have a tantrum.
- He would stare out the window and watch the clouds.
- He could stand and count to 1000 (he loves numbers).
- Along with his love of numbers, was his love for the alphabet. He knew the alphabet and each letter’s sound by two years of age. He could sit and do the same alphabet puzzle for hours. If he lost a piece, he would become extremely disappointed and hard to console.
- This is when my husband and I truly learned to trust God for the simplest of things. Often times, my husband would pray that the Lord would help us find a missing piece; literally in seconds, we would find the missing piece in the most bizarre places.
- He loved to watch TV and movies, especially the same ones repeatedly.
- He always had trouble going to bed at night. Sometimes, he would stay up at night and look at books until he fell asleep.
- There was an extreme fear when we went to public places. We would go to a parade or the mall and he’d cling to my husband or ask to stay in the stroller.
When we received the diagnosis, it all made sense to my husband; but for me, it was devastating. This must be my fault.
What is Autism?
According to the Autism Speaks, “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.
… symptoms and their severity vary widely across these three core areas. Taken together, they may result in relatively mild challenges for someone on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. For others, symptoms may be more severe, as when repetitive behaviors and lack of spoken language interfere with everyday life. While autism is usually a life-long condition, all children and adults benefit from interventions, or therapies, that can reduce symptoms and increase skills and abilities. Although it is best to begin intervention as soon as possible, the benefits of therapy can continue throughout life.”
Before the diagnosis, my husband and I did a ton of research and became convinced that he had Aspergers. It seemed the most logical fit in light of his intelligence. Besides learning the entire alphabet by age two, he learned his numbers just as fast. He could count to one thousand by the time he was four and aspired to count to five thousand. He could read by age four. I was always very proud of him and our entire family did everything we could to nurture his desire to learn as much as he could.
Transition and Trust
Around the time that we got the diagnosis, he stopped talking completely. We had purchased a home and were staying at our associate pastor’s home as we waited for the closing. We had lived in our previous home for five years, Once in the new house, my husband’s grandmother died.
All of these changes were difficult for our son, especially the fact that everything happened so fast. It was a tough time for all of us, but I believe it was the most overwhelming for him.
When I realized he wasn’t talking, I cried a lot. I really questioned myself as a parent. So many thoughts ran through my mind. I had questions like: Where did I go wrong? Should we have avoided vaccines? Was I too hard on him… did I desire for him to learn too much, too fast? Will he ever talk again? What can I do to help him?
I prayed a lot during this time. I came to an amazing place of peace, which I know was the result of the Lord’s kindness and grace. I remember one morning, soon after we moved into our new home, feeling especially upset and overwhelmed. I was about five months pregnant with our fifth child, and feeling super emotional.
I was reading through my daily devotion and the passage focus was John 9:1-3. It reads, “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
The passage hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt God my Father speaking to me and reassuring me that my son’s disability would bring Him much glory. At that point, I knew I had to step back, stop blaming myself, and trust God through this process.