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So much more than “thank you”

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It’s been forever since I last posted. So much has happened: good, bad, & wonderful. So much growth has transpired as a team, personally, & in Filbert. There are countless soapboxes I have explored, passions I have honed and moments that have overwhelmed me to the point of frustration or happy tears. Life is so full. It’s an unpredictable adventure that I wouldn’t change for the world. I feel as though my life is where the rubber meets the road, being guarded or fake is impossible when the stakes are so high with limited time and entrenched loving investment.

Today I choose to share a glimpse of what I see in my life daily. I wake up to the sweet sound of my youngest babbling, my husband broiling bacon, my daughter choosing her outfit and the perfect key of my oldest, Filbert, singing. Breakfast is a mixture of chaos, connection and nutrition. Then the academic day begins with devotional, copy work, geography, history timeline, math and English. Within the hour the first member of our family arrives ready to enthrall Filbert’s brain with stories of the past; a Roman solider, the spread of Christianity and the like. Next up strolls in family member number two who will exercise with Filbert to get his body focused. He is kind and assured with a twist of challenge encouraging Filbert to grow. The next family member joins the fun with an air of grace, compassion and love as she guides him through fine motor exercises each one designed to increase his independence and inclusiveness within our unit.

Then I get the opportunity to share the world of science, invention and discovery with him teaching him the wonderfully gross composition of stool, vomit, and skunk smells. After an intense line up we have an hour to catch our breath outside or read a book aloud. Then we get to see yet another family member come dancing in full of literary devices ready to share the world in a more abstract form; she gracefully and patiently paints a picture that encourages Filbert to get on board and share his thoughts. Just before lunch the sound of laughter fills the air as our penultimate family member bounds through the door to once again help Filbert connect his brain and body. Lots of giggles, stretching, singing and toning happens in chorus as they work together. The mornings work is done, lunch is ready, and it’s no wonder Filbert feels accomplished his fingers, body and brain all full; his belly just one step behind.

The afternoon is full of outside time, art, and read alouds when our concluding family member comes in ready to calculate their way through math. At the day’s end there is a bucket that just overflows with the privilege of knowing all these wonderful family members daily journey with us in love, persistence and patience.

Community at our little house is not a word, it’s an experience that warms my heart each day. Without our beloved family I know all our hearts would be less full; thankfully God graciously gave us each other.

I have thought and thought about how to thank this amazing family, but words escape me. How can really put into words what it is to daily tangibly change someone’s life, and aid in making the impossible possible for their exceptional child. It’s the kind of thing you feel all the way to your core and I simply pray I can do the same for someone else some day.

And this is only half of our story, there is more to our team of wonderful peeps to be shared in the next post.

Why the Son-Rise Program for Filbert?

Where do I even start? There are so many great reasons to do the Son-Rise Program to recover Filbert from autism.

1. It is a child-centered program based around the principles of an unconditionally loving and accepting attitude — yep, I want that for my son.

2. Allows you and others to deeply connect with your child and family leading to a wonderful sense of family and community; not the isolation I felt shortly after diagnosis.

3. Hope & belief are central to every aspect of our lives and how we interact with Filbert, allowing me to leave my assumptions behind and not inhibit his growth based on what I assume he is capable of.

4. This program gives our family the opportunity to take this journey of helping our son with a incredible team of people who all have the same goal: to become who Christ would have us be as we emulate Him daily in our interactions with Filbert which spills into other parts of our lives making us beacons for Christ with all those we encounter.

5. The family support from other Son-Rise parents who understand the daily sacrifice and dedication it takes to commit to putting our children first and allowing ourselves to love them wholly is an amazing network to be a part of, I count myself privileged to be among this group.

6. Lastly, what has been most remarkable is that throughout this journey we have made our baseline, “what is best for filbert?”, it turns out that God guided us to not only what would benefit our son, but would increase our love and understanding of each other and all those we encounter. Both our family and those who work with Filbert are forever changed as they sacrifice their time, give of themselves and learn constantly of the call Christ has on each our lives; to love your neighbor as yourself.

I look forward to each day and week as my son grows in the understanding that people are amazing and have so much to offer. Relationships are what really count and enrich our lives; he is really catching on!

Whenever this phase of our journey comes to an end, I know I will miss this most blessed time I have one on one with my child and those who work with him each week; but I will also be hunting for my place in someone else’s Son-Rise Program to pass on the amazing blessings bestowed so kindly on my son and our family!

A big thanks to Bears and Samahria Kaufman for not giving up and creating the Son-Rise Program for their son, Raun. For more info: www.autismtreatmentcenterofamerica.org

Through the Eyes of a Volunteer

Throughout the month of January, I got the opportunity to complete an internship with Filbert. I did two hour sessions twice a day, as well as reading out of various books, watching DVDs, and having discussions with Emma. I went through an intensified version of Son Rise training since I was with Filbert for four hours a day, but it was quite the experience.

At first, my play with Filbert was not natural. I have a background of working in daycares for five years, so it was all too easy for me to play with Filbert like I would a child at daycare. My first several sessions were spent getting comfortable with the Son Rise program and getting to know Filbert as he got more comfortable with me. After much reading and intense discussions with Emma, I was finally able to give in and let myself go. My sessions with Filbert became exhilarating, emotional, exhausting, and fulfilling.

As I gave myself over to Filbert and presented our world as a fun and amazing place, he never ceased to amaze me in our sessions together. He and I had moments in the playroom that left me elated for the rest of the day. The first breakthrough that made me so happy it brought tears to my eyes was when he looked directly at me and told me he loved me. This kid has no idea of the effect he has on me… One morning session he put his cheek in front of my face, so I kissed it. I was so excited that he leaned in for another kiss…and then another!! I was absolutely ecstatic. Words can’t even describe it. As I left that session, I knelt down in front of Filbert to say good-bye. He leaned his head in for a good-bye kiss. These sweet moments have become a regular occurrence in our sessions together.

I would not trade my experience for anything. I became so attached to Filbert that I switched my spring schedule around so I am able to fit in internship hours every week. I have really taken to the principles of the Son Rise program. The founder, Barry Neil Kaufman has written several books based on these concepts. I am currently reading To Love is to be Happy With. I am fascinated by Filbert’s diet. I started by casually asking questions, which Emma always openly answered. She let me taste some of her homemade probiotic salsa and sour kraut…awesome!! She lent me some great books that I flip through whenever I get a chance. When I graduate from DC food and am on my own, I plan on following the diet plan.

Another plus to working with Filbert is that you get to be around his family. His little sister makes me smile every day. Emma taught her my name, too. : ) Emma and Pancho both showed me how to use my new camera because I was completely clueless. They are both incredibly open and welcoming. The entire family makes you feel loved and accepted. I can’t say enough about how wonderful they are.

God has revealed many things about myself through this experience and I thank Him every day that He brought me to it.

What I wish I had known…

Hindsight is 20/20 or so the saying goes. There are so many theories on what causes autism that it boggles my mind. Instead of dwelling on the past and on things I cannot change, I would like to offer my two cents of what I wish I had known and now hold closely to my heart.

PARENTAL INTUITION — it is a gift that comes with having a child. It doesnt matter how many books you read, times you have babysat or people you have talked to. Nothing is like having a child that is yours. 

I remember leaving the hospital with my first baby thinking “why isn’t the nurse coming with us, they check his and my vitals often, how will we survive”, but like all those before us we figure out how to care of a new little person.

Those first few weeks, months and years are full of learning, questioning and triumphing. Much of it has to do with intuition, especially in the challenging moments. If I were to go back in time, I would ask more questions about everything concerning my child and if unsatisfied with the answers I would have done my own research on the topic, not just taken someone else’s opinions. Many times I felt that tug of intuition, but shoved it aside to follow the status quo.

Now, if something triggers that intuition I take it upon myself to research a variety of opinions on a subject and see what resonates for me. I feel this is my responsibility as a parent and one of the many ways I show love to my little ones.

How do you feel about parental intuition? Has it steered you in the right direction?

New, new, new…

Another incredible day where Filbert just blows me away. Every volunteer today has had the most amazing things to say about their sessions with him. This morning one volunteer told me how they introduced something new and he immediately imitated and join their game – he was so flexible! The second volunteer told me that they had interacted together for 1 hour of the session continuously and even had other shorter interactions with very small amounts of stimming between. During my session, he let me use one of his favorite cars virtually the whole time we played with cars — unheard of! I also introduced a doll for pretend play (last time I did this he immediately threw it across the room). Today he asked the doll, “what’s your name?”, allowed her to walk on the road he created, allowed her to ride on one of his favorite cars, invited her into the library “come in” and even grabbed her and made her dance! Astounding!! Every day miracles happen, I am so blessed by our volunteers and the Son-Rise Program.