a little background

hi, my name is mandy and I have two amazing little boys. My oldest son, Ty, has been diagnosed with autism (which is what you will read most about in this blog); I also have Tripp, who is an amazing little brother to Ty (who you will also hear alot about). I was encouraged to start this blog to document our journey through life and life with autism... my world has been rocked in last few years and i have responded in good ways and bad ... but Jesus has gotten me through all of it...

i hope i can be an encouragement to you, and for the friends and family that will read this - maybe this will keep you posted indepth on what Ty is learning! :) and the adventures of Tripp too

thank you for reading, and if you have any questions, comments or smart remarks; feel free to post them.

Friday, February 15, 2013

speed bump

Communication is a touchy subject when it comes to autism. It is a necessity for daily living and when you're not affected by the inability to communicate you take the ability to communicate for granted and it almost becomes a reflex. Most people go to bed talking, texting, tweeting, facebooking, emailing and chatting with the world and then wake up the next morning doing all the same things again. I know I have issues with knowing when to keep my mouth shut?! I never have to stop and think about how to form words or how to use hand signals to express my needs so that someone else will understand me. There are so many people out there who struggle to communicate on a daily basis. When faced with autism, communication barriers come in a variety pack: the inability to form words, knowing how to mimic words but not really ask for things, not being able to read social cues and not being able to control body movements can really hinder a conversation.
Ty struggles daily with communication.  It is hard for him to get his point across but it's not for lack of trying! He babbles a lot and "talks" to us constantly.  Sometimes its in a normal tone but he does get animated when he is trying to get his point across. If he wants to go outside, he will run to the door and jiggle the handle then run to me and "talk" while pointing at the door and if we don't go outside then he will run and throw himself on the couch while screaming and peeking out of the corner of his eye just waiting for me to give in, sometimes I do.  Ty does have some hand signs that he uses to get what he wants and he does have a few words: more, momma, ball, iPad, my iPad, bye bye, papaw, uh ah(no), bird, mine, bread, bite. When he talks it's not always crystal clear, most of the time his words are squished together and not finished. So "bird" comes out "birrrr", "momma" is said clearly, "iPad" is "iPaaaa"  - you get the idea. He has a hard time finishing his words. I'm not sure if it's because of a lack of strength in his muscles located in and around his mouth or if it's just something that isn't connecting during the "thought-muscle-action" process(I know that's not the technical term but you know what I mean)? Whatever the cause may be, it makes for a struggle on his end. I've been asked many times "Will Ty ever talk?" That's a hard question to hear and to answer. Most days I answer with the positive "Yes, I think he will. He already is forming words and sounds and trying really hard to communicate, and these are all signs of communication and basic steps of learning how to talk. So yes." I go on to talk about how most babies and toddlers that are learning to speak babble first and then mimic and then start to form sentences and for Ty it's just a slower process but that he is following in those steps, which is promising. I never want to be pessimistic when it comes to Ty and the things he struggles with, the Bible says that our words have power and that what we speak over someone can become reality. So I want to be careful when I talk about Ty and his future (and Tripp too). Don't get me wrong, I have wondered and I have questioned, and I have cried and I have prayed a lot! But I never want to say "well this is good enough" because I know that Ty can and will do amazing things so why would I limit him to what my mind can comprehend?
Some people have asked me to teach them how to talk to Ty. I love that there are people who want to get involved with my little man and that seek to be a part of his world. I don't know how to go about this? I guess the first thing I would say is to just listen to him and talk to him as you would any other child. He will talk to you and he will grab your face and make sure you are looking at him while he talks to you. (that always makes me laugh out loud). Ty understands just about everything we say. We didn't always know this but now that we do, things are a little less hectic around our house. I can ask Ty to go get something and bring it to me and he will do it, I can tell him to throw something in the trash and he will do it, I can tell him what's going on and he understands. He doesn't always agree with me (what child does) but he understands what we are saying. This is huge! When we finally realized that he knew what we were saying, we had a whole new game plan. We give Tripp a lot of responsibilities and require a lot of him because we know that he can do it and because we want him to be challenged, learn and grow. The same thing goes for Ty, but with Ty we didn't want to require something of him that we weren't sure he could do and I think he was trying to tell us "hey I can do that too!" but we weren't listening. One night I sent Tripp in the kitchen to get himself a glass of water, he goes and gets a cup and then holds it to the dispenser in the fridge and fills up his own cup. Well Ty came up to me with a an open cup (we still use sippy cups) and starts "talking" to me, so I said "sure you can get some water too." His face lit up, I had to help him push to get the water to come out, and then he stood there gulping the water as it spilled down each side of his cheek. We did this two or three times. When he was done I gave him a paper towel and asked him to help me clean up the mess and not only did he clean it up but he also threw his paper towel in the trash!? I sat back amazed, not just that he did all of that, but that I have been to blind to see it before. So the student becomes the teacher! Communicating with Ty is a learning process and there is no precise science to it. We learn on a daily basis and I encourage you to find someone that you have a hard time communicating with, and just spend a little time with them, listen to them, watch them, they will eventually show you what they know and you will learn how to communicate in a whole new way. Yes, communication is a speed bump in the life of someone with autism, but if you slow down and ease over it, you don't really notice the bump but you get to enjoy the ride!

thanks for reading! :)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Autism & the love of God

We have the most amazing church family!! I know I have written about them many times but I want to be sure that everyone knows how much it means to us to be a part of this church. We live in a rural area in south Mississippi and we are blessed to be able to serve along these amazing people! If you are reading this and you don't like religion or believe that God exists, I hope you will be open minded to what I have to say. I believe that Jesus came and died for our sins and that He rose again, paid our debt and when we choose to give our life to Him, we will be saved! That being said, the church or those that represent the church as a whole can get a bad a wrap. We have seen it in the news with people claiming to know God and claiming to do His will but their actions and words say otherwise. I'm not here to debate this and I don't want to force anyone to believe in Jesus. But I hope that everyone has a chance to encounter Him and make their own decision.
In our little church we have seen the love of God at work. We are surrounded by people who love us and pray for us on a regular basis and who genuinely care about the lives of people in this world. We have the most amazing preacher who has shown us all how to be a church, how to love, give and not judge and how to seek God. I have never seen someone so passionate and caring. He has an amazing wife and two kids that support him and are some of the most sacrificial people I know. I hope that as we get older, we will follow in their footsteps. The people that come to our church are all so willing to do whatever needs to be done. They love and encourage each other and help one another, serve the community and reach out to those who need it.  We have never had a need come before the church that could not be met in some way. There are children, youth, young adults and those older than young adults (i love yall) that all participate and seek to do what God wants them to do. The youth group is so loving and accepting, they care about each other and love to have a good time!  I work with our youth and kids at church along with other volunteers and everything that needs to be done is always taken care of and most times it's more than enough! I'm not just talking about money, these people pray and PRAY and PRAY... if you don't believe in prayer I want to challenge you to give it a chance. The bible says if you ask according to His will, you will receive. If we want/need something that is in line with God's will, He will provide and most times He will provide in abundance of what we could ever imagine!
This past Sunday was super bowl Sunday, at our church it is "Souper Sunday". This has been going on for some time and everyone brings soup and snacks and we have lunch after church and have always taken up a donation and given it to the youth or to a need in the community. Last year they called it Souper Sunday for Ty and everyone wore their blue shirts and they gave a love offering to help us with Ty's therapy. I cried the day they called to ask if we were ok with this, and I cried the day of souper sunday. (i'm not one to cry in public). So this year when they wanted to do it again, I tried to prepare my self emotionally so I would not cry at the drop of a hat. I struggled with being on the receiving end of a love offering and I prayed alot. I prayed for prayers, if that makes any since. I just want so much for Ty and Tripp and I know that through prayer all things are possible.
Walking into choir practice I saw nothing but blue shirts and I almost broke down right there...During the Sunday service, there is always a children's story, the kids come down and Bro Joel or Mrs Anita will talk to the kids about something and typically have a visual aid, magic trick, etc. (just to give you some logistical details - Sam and I sit in the choir and Tripp is usually out in the congregation with the grandparents and Ty is in the nursery). When it was time for the children's story, one of the youth sitting next to me got up and left.... and then she returned with Ty for the children's story... (this was not normal) I turned to look at Sam and he did the same (as if we could read each others mind, "I'm thinking, do you know whats going on?" not really sure what he was thinking) and then we just sat and listened to the children's story. Bro Joel made some puzzle pieces for the kids to put together and it had John 9:3 painted on them, once the kids put them together he told them about the story of the blind man in John chapter 9:
 When Jesus' disciples ask him "who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind" and Jesus tells them "no one sinned but this happened so that the works of God may be displayed in him" then Jesus heals the man and the man comes back and worships Jesus. He talks about autism and how there are lots of things that we don't understand but God has a plan.
By this time I am already tearing up and before I know it streaming tears and then everyone is looking at us bc we were asked to come down front and he & the church were gonna pray for our family. I can't tell you how much it means to us that people pray and how it helps us to know that there are others interceding on our behalf and for Ty on a daily basis?! That means more to me than anything in this world! Then we went down for lunch and had an amazing time visiting everyone and they presented us with a love offering ... speechless does not even begin to describe how I\we felt... I still don't know how to thank them ...I don't know how to express our gratefulness?!

You might be wondering what this has to do with autism or what this has to do with proving that God exists? Well a lot... so many people with autism or any disability feel isolated, families included... they feel like outcasts when it comes to daily activities because "normal" people just don't understand them and choose to look away rather than look with in. Some people choose to judge others parenting skills or just stare awkwardly at an outburst by a child who has no real form of communication.  But our family, friends and church family have been so accepting to Ty! Even the kids and youth - I know they don't always know what to say or how to respond to some of Ty's antics but they want to be a part of his life and they want to play with him and love on him and nothing proves God's love more than that! I've seen kids, youth and adults come in the nursery on a Sunday morning and sit down and play with Ty and "talk" with him even when Ty gets in their face and just jabbers loudly - they talk to him, they don't run or ignore him, they look him in the eye and chat with him... If everyone in the world just stopped to listen to someone that we do not understand, what kind of place would this be? If we weren't afraid of things that we don't understand? If we didn't ignore issues and addressed them face to face... what could we learn? What could we show this world!!?? I think we would show them the love of God! Who better to follow than the man that hung out with outcasts! Selflessness is one of the hardest things to accomplish but it is our biggest testimony! We are surrounded by people with an attitude of selflessness and filled with the love of God! We are blown away by the love and gifts given to us by this amazing group of people and I hope that somehow I can express that in this post. Please know that we love all of you from the bottom of our hearts!!! We can't thank you enough for every prayer and every smile and hug that you send our way. We are blessed beyond measure! And I hope in someway I can return the favor :)