Monday, February 4, 2013

Overcoming Adversity


This is my contribution to Nick Wilford's bloghop benefiting his son. (GPM will be back next week.) These 500-word-or-less posts will be compiled into an anthology. If you'd like to know more, click here. For Nick's entry and a linked list to all the others, go here.




True Colors

I’ve faced my share of adversity, but I wasn’t sure what to write. Then I looked up the word in the dictionary. The sample sentence it gave went something like this:


A person will show his or her true colors in times of adversity.

I literally sucked in a breath. Boy, had I ever failed that one. Not completely, of course, but my kids sure have me beat. They’re the real overcomers, not me.

My twins were only a few months old when I found out my daughter had autism. Those were dark days, and I cried. But they were darker for her.

She had no functional language. She couldn’t even express hunger or thirst. And she’d had an extreme stranger phobia from the age of five months, making simple interactions torture. She’d scream in terror if the grocery sacker got too close.

It considerably hindered my life, but it made hers hell.

Then I found out one of my sons had it, too. The second diagnosis was actually the harder one to take. Lightning isn’t supposed to strike the same place twice.

My children have managed to navigate a society better suited to the neurotypical. They’ve endured the pain of heightened senses in a busy, noisy world. They’ve managed to learn in an educational system geared for normal. They have withstood teasing from ‘friends’ because the way their minds work makes them different.

And they have blessed me. I’m lucky. My autistic kids are verbal. They can tell me they love me—such simple words I never thought I’d be so glad to hear. Simple words other parents never will.

Each year, I’m amazed by how far they’ve come. My son, the boy who used to crouch and cover his ears, now plays in band. And my daughter, the shy one who seemed scared of her own shadow? She stood up in front of an auditorium full of people, just last year, and sang a solo. I was crying then, too, but those were tears of joy.

I’m sure most people never knew the full extent of what we went through all those years. It was lurking in slumped shoulders and defeated eyes, but it wasn't stamped across our foreheads. So . . . be kind. Everyone has trials, and you never know what those might be.





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Postscript...
Thank you to all who have left comments. It warms my heart.

The first and best thing a parent can do when they suspect something isn't right with their child's development is to get help and get them assessed. (Here in Houston, that is done for free through ECI - Early Childhood Intervention.)

The next thing is: Don't let denial keep you from getting your child the help they need.

I firmly believe my kids are doing as well as they are because we intervened early and did what was needed. Waiting isn't going to make it go away. Worse, waiting is going to squander that early window for making a real difference.

Use a coping mechanism if you must, but don't waste time on denial. Suck it up and deal. Acceptance is the only way to help your child.



29 comments:

  1. Your children are very brave and an inspiration :)

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  2. My one son has autism (AS), and I know about the challenges of the early years. We always see pictures of young kids with autism. It's great to hear that things can improve with the right opportunities. Thanks for the inspiring post. :)

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  3. Thank you for sharing, Melissa. That's, without doubt, a tale of courage. :)

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  4. God chose you because you were the best choice for them. i am humbled at your perseverence & strength! thanks for sharing your story!

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  5. Oh my gosh, Melissa... not one but TWO children??? Wow... I had no idea. I'm so floored. You're living a lot of parent's worst nightmare----just incredible. And to see your strength and positivity... and it's so neat to see how far they've come. Wow. I bet you have many a story to tell!

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  6. Of course, I knew all of this, but that doesn't make it any less impressive. Today, I stand up and applaud you, my friend. :)

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  7. What a wonderful post, Melissa. Very touching and I'm so proud of you and those kiddos. They couldn't shine the way they do without a wonderful mother.

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  8. Your kids sound like superstars. They have really had to overcome a lot to achieve what they have today. And you've been there for them the whole way. Your post reminded me of things my wife told me about when Andrew was a little boy, before I knew him. He was terrified of enclosed, noisy spaces and would throw up, wanted to be cuddled into his mother all the time, and hated being put in the car. He's come such a long way!

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  9. Melissa, this is beautiful. Your love for your children shines through :)

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  10. Melissa, wow! Don't think about those dark years. Just look at how far those kids know and realize nothing is impossible for them now.

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  11. Hey Melissa,

    I echo Alex above and am just blown away by the strenght it took for you and the kids to get to where they are today.

    I cannot even contemplate how you did it - have you ever thought about writing about the early (and later) years to help others in the future?

    I always thought *you* were a wonderful, giving person and now I know you are truly one of the most special people I've ever "met."

    Congrats on the many milestones your kids have achieved and best wishes to both of them (and you) as they prepare for the next stage in their young lives :)

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  12. Good for you and your family for thriving with the circumstances you were given. All we can do is be as happy as we can, no matter what we have to face. You guys have done it.

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  13. I love that you wrote this and I could feel your pain. This really resonated with me on a personal level. Sending you and your family lots of prayers and warm thoughts and I'm so happy that your children have made progress! I love when that happens because I know that sometimes, things start out feeling so hopeless and then being surprised by how far your kids can come is one of the greatest feelings ever. Bless you!

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  14. What a wonderful and inspirational story which highlights the resilient human spirit! Your kids are amazing... and so are you!

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  15. This was very humbling. Many times we feel or think we got the short end of the stick until we find another person with a much bigger load to carry. More courage and faith, Melissa. Special children are special blessings to parents who can truly give them all the love and care they need. You are blessed!

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  16. I read this post yesterday but couldn't respond right away. It takes courage to deal with the issues like the ones your family are facing, but as a mother, we'd do anything for our little ones. It's heartwarming to know your children are progressing, and that's because your children have amazing parents who never gave up on them! And your postscript is dead on, early detection and intervention is key. HUGS!

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  17. It's as if I just read my own story. I teared up.

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  18. Melissa - what a wonderful and inspirational post. Your true colors shined through, and I think I like you ten times more than I already did...I think.

    Don't know what it is, but still not getting emails of your posts. Argh.

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  19. Waving 'hello' from the blog hop and I'm glad I stopped by....great post!

    It's amazing some of the things that we take for granted don't come as easily to others.

    We're each blessed in big and small ways.

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  20. That is an extremely powerful sentence. I'm going to have to remember that one. I learned a lot from this post. Thank you for sharing your story. :)

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  21. What a beautiful story. You made me cry... I loved reading how far your kids have come. What a triumph.

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  22. That was a beautiful and inspirational story!

    By the way, I nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. :)

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  23. Beautiful post. Your children are amazing individuals. Thank you for sharing this with us.

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  24. I'm not a parent but even so I found this post moving. I'm glad your kids are doing so well!

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  25. I'm late to the party, but thanks for sharing this. My pesky day job is working at Community Mental Health. There is so much misunderstanding about these things! People stepping forward to talk about it is vital. Bless you. :)

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  26. Beautiful and inspiring, you have great children and obviously you have been great parents as well. Not many people understand unless they have been through something similar.

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  27. You are my hero! I loved your story and thank Carrie Butler for sharing your links with me! My oldest has devlopmental delay, speech delay and ocd and my twins also have ocd. Thanks so much for sharing your story!
    <3 Tobi

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