Thursday, December 31, 2015

Autism Service Dogs of America have accepted Jacob into the program!

 
I have the most exciting news! After months of prayer, Autism Service Dogs of America have officially accepted Jacob into the service dog program. 
As you can imagine, a service dog will absolutely change Jacob's life.  A service dog is not a therapy dog.  A therapy dog is trained to help many, Jacob's service dog will be trained for his specific needs.  Right now, when we go out in public, Cret has to hold Jacob or he must ride in a stroller (with someone in front and back in case he makes a run for it) to keep him safe.  Soon, Jacob will be entirely too big to hold and it will become increasingly difficult to go out and do things as a family for long periods of time.  I know Jacob wants the freedom to walk alone as well.  While we are ok with making adjustments, a service dog will provide an answer to this dilemma.  The service dog will be tethered to Jacob's waist and will allow him independence, keeping him safe from bolting off.  A service dog is also trained to provide deep pressure for Jacob when he needs it, to relieve anxiety, they can even be trained to search and rescue if something awful were to happen.  The sweetest thing, I think, is the friendship that Jacob will find in his new best pal.  Although it may take time, I can't wait to see that relationship grow.
The service dog program takes 1.5-2 years to train the dog from a puppy to become a fully certified service dog.  This will mean the dog will ride in the car with him, go to school with him, go in stores, on airplanes, anywhere that he may go as he grows up. 
I am so incredibly thankful that Jacob has been selected for this program.  After videos and an interview they felt that Jacob was a good fit and needed exactly what their service dogs provide.  God is so good.
We are now in the fundraising process for the service dog.  We must raise $13,500 before they begin the training process. Honestly...I really, really dislike fundraising.  Its never cool to ask people to donate money.  I just recently raised money for Autism Speaks because I feel that organization is changing the lives for the 1 in 68 individuals with autism, and now just a few months later I'm fundraising for our family.  However, I know the difference it will make in my baby's life, in our family's life, and I have faith that this will all work out.
I am so grateful that we have already raised $1,600!!! Friends, family, and strangers have donated and we are so thankful. One friend donated $1,000 through her work.  The company allows its employees to put a little aside each paycheck pre-tax to donate to a non-profit and she chose to donate to ASDA in Jacob's name.  YAY!
I know some people can't make financial donations, but if you feel led please share our GoFundMe page so that others can read and donate if they feel inclined.  My mom wrote a sweet letter to help me set it up.  Click here to check it out:
 
 
The organization is a non-profit and will be sending me fundraising ideas soon.  If you have a fun idea, please private email me.  Thank you thank you thank you to those who have given and especially those who have prayed through this journey with us.  Please continue to pray that the Lord will see this through to the end. I am so excited for Jacob to meet his new best friend, his life-saving service pup.
 
 
 
 
 
 


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Therapy Dog Update

 
 
I wanted to give an update to our therapy dog status because several people have asked me about it.  We still have not heard from Autism Service Dogs of America.  They received our application months ago and I believe we are still waiting to be processed. 
A friend of mine was able to donate in Jacob's name through her work, so I hope that helps us get approved.
 
 
Although Jacob is making vast improvements in speech and his attention span, we are still in desperate need of a therapy dog for his safety.  Jacob is 5 and very smart and very independent.  In fact, if he ever got out of the house or the clinic I am certain he would run towards danger.  When he rides his bike around our cul-de-sac he tries to ride off down the street and we have to chase him down and redirect him and he tries to run often when we are out in public.  He is the sweetest little guy, but still has little awareness of danger. 
 
We are going to purchase Angel Sense GPS this month for him.  Unfortunately, this is a device used to locate a child after they have wandered, which may be too late for children like Jacob who are attracted to water and traffic.  However, it is what's available, so we are going to get it.  As he gets older, I had hoped that this behavior would subside and that he would become more aware of his surroundings and less likely to bolt.  That just isn't the case.  He is at the prime age for running because he is so incredibly smart and independent. 
 
I just wanted to ask for prayer please.  Could you please keep Jacob's safety in your prayers and that he will get accepted into the therapy dog program.  This would be a potentially life-saving animal for him. It amazes me how God created these dogs to be so brilliant and such an aid to children with disabilities.  Thank you for prayer. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Selective Mutism

 
 
I went to another observation at Jacob's clinic.  The BCBA and his lead therapist told me that they cannot diagnose, but believed Jacob has selective mutism
From Wikipedia:
Selective mutism (SM) is an anxiety disorder in which a person who is normally capable of speech does not speak in specific situations or to specific people. Selective mutism usually co-exists with shyness or social anxiety.  People with selective mutism stay silent even when the consequences of their silence include shame, social ostracism or even punishment.
 
Besides lack of speech, other common behaviors and characteristics displayed by selectively mute people include:
  • Shyness, social anxiety, fear of social embarrassment, and/or social isolation and withdrawal
  • Difficulty maintaining eye contact
  • Blank expression and reluctance to smile
  • Stiff and awkward movements
  • Difficulty expressing feelings, even to family members
  • Tendency to worry more than most people of the same age
  • Desire for routine and dislike of changes
  • Sensitivity to noise and crowds
I have always known this about Jacob, but contributed it to his autism.  The therapist says that is not the case.  She has worked with many kids on the spectrum and Jacob's issue is different, it goes beyond anxiety when lots of people are around.  Jacob's old therapist even consulted with his new therapist in the beginning to let her know that Jacob has intense times of muteness and she was concerned that they would not see how much he is capable of doing and saying because of this.  Throughout the last 6 months they have observed characteristics in Jacob that they do not see typically with kids on the spectrum.  Jacob will be fully engaged in verbal tasks and then hear a tiny sound, see a door open, or a new person and go completely mute and start showing major signs of anxiety.  He does this with timers, open drawers, all kinds of things. He stops speaking all together in new settings or he will begin aspirating.  This is also different from his adversion to loud sounds where he covers his ears.  This is an anxiety causing him to lock up when he sees new people, things or situations, not just sounds.  It makes me wonder what he is worrying about in that little head of his.  In his observation I was able to see him do it.  He was sitting at the table with his everyday therapist working well.  Then all of sudden he heard a small sound outside of the room.  He stopped talking and started making weird faces and locking up.  Then he began his breathy voice.  The lead therapist told me that this was typical of him when he hears unknown sounds.  He also clams up and doesn't eat well in the lunch room that he is used to when a new person is in the room.  I've seen him do it thousands of times and thought it was an ASD trait and apparently it isn't.  His goes beyond the "norm" for autism if that makes sense. 
 
They have begun a program of desensitizing him, but it looks as if we may need to consult with a speech therapist as well.  I would love to hear from someone who has a child with this diagnosis and what steps you have taken to help reduce anxiety and increase speech.
 
Speaking of worry...the last couple of weeks have been pretty difficult for me.  It seems like I've been hit with many stressors all at one time.  Its easy to forget that my worry isn't helping anything.  I want so badly to have control over each situation, but I don't.  A good friend invited me to a Casting Crowns concert the other night and they sang a song that I had heard before, but never really listened to.  By the end I was crying because it was such an encouraging reminder.  I wanted to share it for others maybe needing encouragement. God is sovereign.  Let go of your anxiety and trust HIM.
 
 
View it here:
 
Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

And when you're tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There's freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

So when you're on your knees and answers seem so far away
You're not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
I'm on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

If your eyes are on the storm
You'll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You'll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted
In time, you'll understand
I'm painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands

Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you'll find Me
And where you are, Ill hold your heart
Ill hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who wont let go

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

There are no coincidences: Our family's testimony


 
 
It occurred to me that I hadn’t taken the time to share part of my family’s testimony yet in regards to how the Lord has perfectly provided for us and Jacob. I guess when it comes to finances there is a part of us that always wants to keep it a secret, or maybe its pride, embarrassment, I don’t know.  No matter what the case, I don’t feel like this story is mine to keep as a secret.  What God has done has been nothing short of a miracle for us, and it was certainly nothing that we did.
Let’s start at the beginning.  Jacob was diagnosed with autism.  Cret and I were devastated.  It is beyond scary to not know how to parent, connect, and communicate with your child.  Additionally, you don’t know what do for them as far as treatment and care.  The different opinions are overwhelming.  After much research, we decided whole-heartedly on ABA therapy.  It is the only scientifically proven treatment for autism. Over the years, ABA has proven to increase Jacob’s skills, speech, and engagement. 
Ok, so we decided ABA was best.  There was only one problem. Its $5,000/month or $60,000/year and our insurance didn’t cover a penny.  The most heart breaking and agonizing thing about it was that we knew this therapy was statistically proven to help Jacob in really crucial ways, but we couldn’t get it for him. We asked many people to pray for us and for him. 
For a while we tried part-time ABA, but even that was costing us too much and we saw that he desperately needed more.  Then after begging and pleading with Cret’s work they decided to reimburse any therapy we would pay for.  Well, we didn’t have thousands upon thousands of extra bucks to put down, so after prayerful consideration we felt that the Lord wanted us to sell our home.  The Lord had placed us in a home (our dream home we thought) that year and we were able to sell it and earn enough profit for 1 full year of ABA therapy.  There really wasn’t a legitimate reason for us to have made such a profit being in that home less than a year, except that the Lord had his hand on it.  I asked Cret what we would do after that year for Jacob, when the money ran out, and he told me very confidently that the Lord would provide.  I look back at his faith and it astounds me. I believed him.
Approaching the end of the year we had exactly 3 months left of therapy money in our account.  I can’t express the feelings I had at that time.  We literally had no plan for the end of that year. We began to pray.
Meanwhile, I had a friend asking me for advice.  Her child had been recently diagnosed with autism and she was overwhelmed and stressed and sad.  She wanted to know why.  I had a hard time knowing what to say because I don’t have an answer as to why our kids have autism, but I trusted God.  The next morning I woke up and thought, what if God told me, “Allison, I could heal Jacob right now so that he could live independently or I can be glorified more if he remains autistic.” Obviously, I didn’t think God was really telling me this at that moment, but I had to ask myself what I would say.  At that time I found myself praying for Jacob’s healing more than most things.  Did I really want to glorify God most of all or was Jacob my first priority?  So I began reading about people with disabilities in the Bible.  People that were blind, deaf, and lame were allowed to suffer and then healed by Jesus so that HE could be glorified and show HIS power or exemplify our desperate need for a Savior.  Then I read about Job and how the book shows that we know so little about God’s big picture.  That gave me hope because we can trust in God’s faithfulness and sovereignty and plan for us because it’s bigger than our ideas, hopes, and dreams.  I realized that I needed to trust God fully with Jacob and make God’s glory my priority.  I discussed my conviction with Cret and he agreed.
Soon afterwards, our church rolled out the last step of a plan unlike any other.  The vision for this plan was to be in a position to plant churches and send out some of our own members and money to areas where they are needed permanently. These churches will be their own autonomous churches (not branches of our own).  It’s a vision that gives away our church’s money and members all for the glory of God to spread the Gospel where needed. To make this happen, our church agreed on a plan to be built out and debt free to begin planting.  Many members were giving money in order to make this happen for the Lord.  I want to stress that my Pastor in no way pressured anyone to donate, it was something for each person/couple to prayerfully consider between themselves and God.  If you want to know more about this plan visit http://nehbc.com/futurebecomesclear
When we got home from hearing this plan Cret immediately told me to sit down.  He told me that I needed to pray about something.  He explained that we sold our house to for Jacob’s therapy and that God provided that money for the last several months.  There was no logical reason that we had that much equity in a home we had just purchased.  God did it, so he wanted to give money to God for church planting.  We decided to pray on it and then write down how much we felt we should give separately to see if we were on the same page. Obviously, this money was coming out of savings.  Savings we needed for Jacob. This was the time to choose…God’s glory or Jacob. Not surprisingly, we both had written down the EXACT same number (1/3 of our savings).  This would cut Jacob's therapy down a full month. I started crying.  I couldn’t believe the timing of all of this.  God had just revealed to me that I needed to make HIM my priority and now we needed to literally put our money where our mouth was.  AS I sobbed, I told Cret he had better get to that computer and donate it now before I changed my mind. He laughed, but he went straight to the computer and did it right away. It was hard, but we knew it was right.
The most amazing miracle happened that week.  Literally 2 days later, Cret got a call from a man from our church with a job offer.  Cret had not applied for a job anywhere.  I would say ironically, but it is absolutely no coincidence that this job also happened to offer full insurance coverage for Jacob’s ABA therapy.  Within weeks, Jacob began at a local ABA clinic full time.
God has faithfully provided for us over and over and over.  It is impossible to think that the timing of all of this was anything short of the hand of God.  I know that we may still face challenges ahead, but I am confident God will see us through.  We are so thankful.  Through all of this we have learned that there is no other choice but to trust God's plan for our lives, our finances, our hopes and our dreams.  There is so much more to the story, so much more that I could share about God's goodness, but I will leave it here for now.
GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Team Jacob's Theme Song

Jordan and Makaylee spent a lot of time writing all the lyrics to this amazing song to try and raise donations for our team for the Autism Speaks Walk.  Please listen, share, and donate if you feel led. I am so proud of these girls for using their amazing talents and time to try and help. Thank you for your support. Click this link to donate:
 
video
 
Here is the link to see them featured in the Autism Speaks blog:
 
Here is the video's youtube link:
 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

My 5 yr old's BFF is 23, and I'm ok with that!


Something remarkable happened yesterday. Jacob made it clear that he has his very first BFF.

Jacob rarely expresses interest in people.  We always get pumped up when he requests someone because its such a rare event. Sometimes he asks for Mommy or Ms. Misti or Daddy, but once he sees them it is a short lived excitement.  My sister-in-law always gets so excited when Jacob runs up to her to give her even a quick hug.  He just isn't that in to people. He fixates on certain items or toys that holds his interest at that specific moment.  He loves electronics, but he just doesn't care much about having friends yet.  That's pretty much what autism looks like for many people.

Lately, however, Jacob has been requesting his old therapist Summerr.  Words cannot describe the type of therapist she was to Jacob.  I've been told that sometimes therapists/students bond a little more with particular teachers/children they work with and this was no exception with her and Jakey.  He instantly loved her, her energy, her silliness, her singing.  She is a special person through and through.  But as our lives changed, we had to switch therapy companies and no longer could keep Summerr on with us.  I am pretty sure I cried for a month about it.  Summerr brought out a silliness in Jacob that we had never seen, she got him to say things we never could, she played games with him that he refused with others.  She was just that good. 

The other day I called Summerr and asked her to babysit because Jacob has not stopped requesting her.  A human.  He was requesting a particular human over and over.  I mean, this is big.  So she agreed and what happened was simply magical to me. 

Jacob was playing on Cret's IPhone as she pulled up. Anyone who knows Jacob, knows that getting him to voluntarily give up an electronic doesn't happen.  As she walked up, I yelled to Jacob, "Summerr is here!" He instantly dropped the phone and ran to the front door with a smile I have rarely seen on his face, and never about a person.  He waited until she came in and gave her a huge hug and kisses.  Then as I showed her around he ran into the game room to grab his giant old therapy table and tried to lift it up to bring it to her, as if he wanted to get right back to work with her (because that's where they always used to play).  I don't know, maybe its just me, but moms who have kids in therapy all day know they don't usually request more therapy.  LOL So, it just continued from there.  He rode on her shoulders and would keep looking down at her face to make sure it was still her.  He kissed on her and read to her and made her play with him.  He even snuggled with her at bedtime and Jordan said she saw him grab Summerr's hand.  It was his first time ever to play with a friend for longer than 2 seconds.  My heart is so full I could just explode. 

So, his BFF happens to be 23 and I happen to be really excited about it.  I know most moms wouldn't want their child's best friend to be an adult, but I guess sometimes that's what autism looks like.  It is different, it's challenging, it's special, and it's so rewarding.  I am so thankful that the Lord put this wonderful woman in our lives and that she loves Jakey so much. 

God, thank you for therapists and special education teachers that truly invest their lives in these precious kids.  Raise up more teachers who genuinely care because they make such a difference. Thank you for Summerr.  Please continue to bless her life as she blesses others. 


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Why I Tell People My Son Has Autism


A conversation I had today spurred the topic of whether or not special needs parents should share our children's diagnosis with people. This, of course, is referring to a diagnosis that can't been seen.  Most parents are pretty passionate about the issue. I will never imply or assume that my way of parenting is the correct or the best way, nor do I judge people who make different parenting choices than me.  I get things wrong a lot. The only TRUTH I believe in is the Bible.  I know that this post will completely contradict what many special needs parents feel to be true. In reality, I can see both sides.  I understand there may be just as many arguments against what I am saying, but I thought it may be helpful to new "autism parents" to read a different perspective.
 
There is a stigma surrounding autism.  I can sort of understand why. Autism is hard and scary and expensive with many, many unknowns. When I tell people that Jacob has autism, I almost always will hear how sorry people are for me or a complete avoidance and change of subject.  Its not a fun thing to talk about typically.  In fact, many parents do not discuss their children's diagnosis.  I totally get it. I get that parents don't want a label on their child.  I get that they want to give them the decision to tell the world if they decide to.  I also understand that they don't want their child to be treated differently.
 
But I would love to share my perspective.
Here are the TRUTHS that I know.
 
 
Psalm 139:13-14
13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
 
 
Exodus 4:10-12
10 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
 
 
John 10:10
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 
 


John 9:2-3
And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
 

 
 I know and trust that God is perfect; totally without error.  I know and trust that he created Jacob just as he would have Jacob be.  As Jacob grows, I want him to understand that God created him and allowed him to have autism along with many other wonderful qualities.  Although we don't always understand the why, we can trust that this is God's plan for Jacob's life.  I am thankful that God is sovereign over all things, especially the challenging things, because I know that He can use those things for His glory and our good.

 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28

I hope that Jacob will see his unique qualities as a gift from God that can be used to glorify God in whatever way God desires. I want him to grow with an understanding that God made him different and that is not only ok, but exactly as it should be. Our God is wisdom and is faithful and is trustworthy and also is Jacob's perfect creator. 

I understand that some people don't share the autism diagnosis with others because they feel that their child may be treated differently.  This is a real concern.  However, as I have read testimony after testimony of adults with autism who did not share their diagnosis, most were treated differently anyways and struggled with making friends and bullying. I am hoping that some people will show Jacob compassion knowing his specific challenges and love him for him.  Do I think that everyone will love him and no one will hurt him if we tell people he has autism?  No way.  I know that God has not promised that Jacob or our family will have an easy life, but I am certain that He will bring us through any trials we may have if we trust in Him and seek Him.  I also know that this life is not our own, but God's.  I want Him to be able to use "autism" in whatever way he desires for Jacob and our family as he already has.

Romans 5:3-5
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

I have always felt that if I keep this part of Jacob's life a secret and I tell Jacob that he doesn't have to tell anyone about his autism, I may be setting up an environment for him to believe that maybe he shouldn't tell people, or that something is wrong with him.  As crazy as it may sound, I want him to be thankful for his autism, whether he grows to be fully independent or not.  I hope and pray that he will be a man of God that seeks the Lord with all of his heart and honors God by sharing his testimony and how God guided him through his struggles.

2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

I want the environment of our family to be fully accepting of autism.  I want to talk about it, cry about it, rejoice about it, be thankful for it, and overall give all the glory to God for everything He has done for us, our joys and struggles. God is good.