Story of hope by mom…
This is our story about our little family and our sweet daughter, Megan, and our glimpses of hope along the way.
As far as we knew, our oldest child, Megan, was a healthy, happy little girl. It wasn’t too long until the red flags started and we were directed to Kids on the Move. The diagnosis of Autism followed soon after. I remember hearing the word. I didn’t really know what Autism meant but I knew it was not good. I cried… A LOT. What does this mean? What does her future look like? How could we help her? The deeper we dug, the worse the outcome seemed to look. We went to meetings and attended support groups, but it was all too depressing. There were no real words of hope or quality of life for our kids, just condolences. We had to dig deeper. Now remember, this is the year 2000. Thirteen years ago there were not programs for kids with Autism, and little was known about its cause or effects. The more we searched, the bleaker her future seemed to be. In all our research, nothing got results like this so-called “Lovaas Program”. In a nutshell, the program includes intensive one on one therapy using techniques that focus on breaking complex tasks into smaller, more achievable steps. The Lovaas Program, or ABA as some call it, is used to teach and encourage appropriate behavior, such as language use and social skills. In doing so, it also reduces difficult behavior.
With great faith and A LOT of effort, we forged ahead and decided we would start the program. With the help of our parents, we set aside all the money we could. Three thousand dollars. Enough for roughly one month of therapy and hired a team of experts to guide our efforts. We had our initial training and began our journey in our home, for at least 8-hours a day, 40 hours a week. Megan sat at a table with a tutor and learned basic skills, over and over. At times progress was slow, but significant enough we knew we had to go on. We held monthly fundraisers to help fund our efforts. Yard sales, cut-a-thons, movie tickets. You name it, we did it. I held down 3 jobs, my husband had 2, and for a short time we threw in a paper route because we were crazy and desperate.
I will never forget the day, about 3 months into the therapy, I was in the kitchen preparing dinner and I heard the downstairs door open. Then I heard Meg’s little feet come running up the stairs. But next I heard something I had never heard before. Her little voice say “Mommy, where are you?” That was the first time I had heard her call out for me, much less put 4 words together in a sentence.
As I look back now, I have no idea how we managed those few years of her at-home therapy program, our marriage and adding another child to our family. But, with divine intervention, the help of our loving families and wonderful friends, we survived. Three and a half years and well over $100,000 dollars later, we were exhausted and decided it was time to shift gears. We are so grateful for the many lessons learned along the way.
Let me share one more “Aha” moment with you that kept us going.
There was a time when we were short on our payroll and did not know how we were going to pay our tutors. We had exhausted all our efforts and prayed with great faith that we could find a way to continue the expensive program. The next day, I gathered the mail from the mailbox. In an envelope addressed to our family was enclosed an anonymous cashier’s check for the amount of $10,000.00. I still get chocked up as I think of this incredible gift that was given to our family in such a time of great need.
It has been 10 years since we started our journey of hope. Megan is a happy, thriving 16 year-old sophomore in High School. She recently went on her first date and just this past week, took first place in the Art exhibit she entered in the Reflections Contest. The sky’s the limit in what Meg’s future holds for her. Yes, there are still many hard days. Questions of what might have been and what if she had been and so on linger. But, I can honestly say I would not change my life with Megan for the world. She points out the little things in life that so many of us take for granted. I feel it an honor and privilege to be her mother.
Just a quick note to readers:
Please, please, please don’t forget about the Megan’s in your neighborhood, church or circle of friends. Make them a part of your birthday invites, play dates and while forming your soccer teams. Remember them now and years from now. They need friends to look out for them. Kids like Megan need opportunities to spend time with “normal” children and believe me, “normal” kids need as many opportunities to learn the “Megan’s” out there as they can get.
Thank you from all of us for reminding us once again how essential the Megans’ are in this world. She is truly beautiful. Tears came as I read through this post one last time before hitting the save button. ”Then I heard Meg’s little feet come running up the stairs. But next I heard something I had never heard before. Her little voice say “Mommy, where are you?” That was the first time I had heard her call out for me…” The feeling these few simple sentences stirred in my heart are feelings I treasure. Feelings adding to my hope and lifting me up on the hard days. Thank you again. And THANK YOU Megan! We are better because of you.
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