To end World Autism Month, I asked a friend, Virginia, to write about her son Spencer, who has autism. I met Virginia's family through church, and still remember the first time I saw Spencer there after we moved to the area. Julianna was only 20 months old, so I didn't quite know what was going on. But as things progressed with her, I got to know Virginia more and she has been a great support to me in my journey so far. She is an amazing mom with 5 boys and I am glad to call her my friend.
He was a typical newborn baby, for about a month. Then he began to change. His first change was he stopped napping. He would sleep in my arms for about 5 minutes and then wake up. At night, he slept, but never through the night. He made milestones of smiling, sitting up, and rolling over as he should. He would babble and seemed social but was also restless. We just thought he was that difficult child that every family seemed to have.
When Spencer was a year old his baby brother Stephen was born. We now had a 3-year-old, a 1-year-old and a newborn baby. When Spencer was 2 years old, we moved to a new community. We now consisted of 4-year-old Stuart, 2-year-old Spencer, 1-year-old Stephen and one more baby on the way. Life was HECTIC.
We began to notice very subtle problems. Spencer didn’t make eye contact, he didn’t follow verbal commands, and he didn’t progress in his speech. His 1-year-old brother was surpassing him in everything, except motor coordination. After Spencer slipped past us and ended up on a busy road by himself, we decided that there were problems. With great sadness I told the doctor I was concerned he had autism. The doctor agreed and our fears were realized.
Soon after his diagnosis he began pre-school. He made little bits of progress, but it was slow. With intense speech intervention, our hopes were high that he would begin communicating, but it never happened. Wherever we went I had to explain to people why he was acting the way he did. Very few knew what autism was. We were called poor parents and told he just needed to be spanked a little bit more.
In 1997, against all advice, we decided to have another baby. We knew there was a chance we could have another child with autism. We still decided to have another, having faith we would be blessed. We soon found out another boy was on the way. My fears were increased. Then terrible news: my father had cancer and would not live much longer. In September of that year we drove 4 little boys to Wyoming to visit with my dad, their grandpa, for the last time. As I visited with him for what I knew would be the last time in this life, I found my father to be very in-tune with the spirit. He promised me that our baby boy would be unaffected by autism. He never got to see his youngest grandchild, Benjamin.