My Son is a Genius

My son is a genius. No, I’m not kidding. He is a spacial genius. I don’t know if there is a specificity for the genial kind, but as a mom, I’m telling you, Gabriel is incredibly special and highly talented in spacial understanding and memory.

I know you are dying to hear my anecdote, so let me explain:

For the past few months: Gabriel has recently discovered the stimulating world of Google Earth. He has spent numerous amount of hours virtually navigating the streets of Miami, where he lived until four years ago. He has communicated to us that he wants to move back and that he has found a few spots where we can get a “new house”. He has a special spot in South Miami that he really likes. One day we found him looking at rental properties around the area, strategically planted within walking distance of a Pizza Hut.

Three days ago: My husband called me urgently to come into Gabriel’s room and see what his computer screen was displaying. We stared at it in total and absolute amazement, while Gabriel casually “visited” Seaquarium in his tablet.

24 years ago: When Gabriel was 1 year old, Juan and I, along with our two little ones, moved to “Kendall Club Apartments” and lived there for two years. When our third son was born (he was exactly 8 days old), we moved to a single family home nearby. Gabriel was 3. I do not ever recall returning to that apartment since our move. We drove by Kendall Drive many, many times throughout our life in Miami, but never did we enter the apartment complex again.

Three days ago: Gabriel was virtually standing in front of the exact apartment he lived in when he was 3 years old. Simultaneously, in his tablet, his finger moved through the streets of Miami, from the Seaquarium in Key Biscayne to Kendall Club Apartments. First the causeway, then US1, then Sunset Drive, passing by Pizza Hut, of course, to 87th Ave, to Kendall Drive.

He remembers it all. He can navigate it all. If he had the ability to drive, he would get in his car and drive straight from VA to his favorite spot in Miami. He could also take us, practically with his eyes closed, to Marco Island, Disney World (of course), Steve Reed’s house (inside story), Delaware, DC, Virginia Beach, or anyplace where he has been only once.

This may not seem like a genial trait to some. But for an autistic adult who has never driven, never seemed to pay attention to his surroundings, hardly ever looked out the window of a car, never asked or received verbal directions, nor ever studied maps up until recently, this is quite outstanding. None of my other children (who speak and drive) would be able to get to most familiar places of their childhood without any help or hesitation.

Of course, we already knew this about Gabriel. When he was 8 he got upset when I was driving him to school one day, and told me to “turn right”. I obliged, because when Gabriel used words we all made sure he was rewarded for that. After several commands to turn this way or the other, I found myself in Parrot Jungle. Gabriel smiled. He had only been there once before, but when he directed me there, he did so via an unfamiliar road, one that we had never taken to get to Parrot Jungle. Another time we discovered that he had drawn in his pad the entire way to Marco Island, one picture frame at a time, after we visited there once. The pictures took us to the hotel (and the exact room) in which we vacationed. These pictures were drawn several months after the fact.

Autism puzzles and intrigues me. Gabriel amazes me. I thank God that often times He gives, who are closest to him, glimpses of the complexity of thought and depth of personality in him.

gabriel and his desktop

Gabriel elated to get a computer for his birthday

Gabriel and I

My boy and I

kendall club apartnements

Kendall Club Apartments in Gabriel’s computer screen

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The 12 Months of 15K

On the first month of 15K my true love gave to me

My baby’s graduation party

On the second month of 15K my true love gave to me

Chilly days with family

And my baby’s graduation party

 

On the third month of 15K my true love gave to me

A fiddler on the roof

Chilly days with family

And my baby’s graduation party

On the fourth month of 15K my true love gave to me

A girls’ trip to Miami

Fiddler on the roof

Chilly days with family

And my baby’s graduation party

On the fifth month of 15K my true love gave to me

Kiiiids and more kiiiids!

Girls’ trip to Miami

Fiddler on the roof

Chilly days with family

And my baby’s graduation party

On the sixth month of 15K my true love gave to me

Beaches and vacations

Kiiiids and more kiiiids!

Girls’ trip to Miami

Fiddler on the roof

Chilly days with family

And my baby’s graduation party

On the seventh month of 15K my true love gave to me

Outdoor delights

Beaches and vacations

Kiiiids and more kiiiids!

Girls’ trip to Miami

Fiddler on the roof

Chilly days with family

And my baby’s graduation party

On the eighth month of 15K my true love gave to me

Seussical adventures

Outdoor delights

Beaches and vacations

Kiiiids and more kiiiids!

Girls’ trip to Miami

Fiddler on the roof

Chilly days with family

And my baby’s graduation party

Β On the ninth month of 15K my true love gave to me

Fun in RVA

Seussical adventures

Outdoor delights

Beaches and vacations

Kiiiids and more kiiiids!

Girls’ trip to Miami

Fiddler on the roof

Chilly days with family

And my baby’s graduation party

On the tenth month of 15K my true love gave to me

Awesome BFFs

Fun in RVA

Seussical adventures

Outdoor delights

Beaches and vacations

Kiiiids and more kiiiids!

Girls’ trip to Miami

Fiddler on the roof

Chilly days with family

And my baby’s graduation party

On the eleventh month of 15K my true love gave to me

In the skies with Gabriel

Awesome BFFs

Fun in RVA

Seussical adventures

Outdoor delights

Beaches and vacations

Kiiiids and more kiiiids!

Girls’ trip to Miami

Fiddler on the roof

Chilly days with family

And my baby’s graduation party

On the twelfth month of 15K my true love gave to me

Hugs, smiles, and presents

In the skies with Gabriel

Awesome BFFs

Fun in RVA

Seussical adventures

Outdoor delights

Beaches and vacations

Kiiiids and more kiiiids!

Girls’ trip to Miami

Fiddler on the roof

Chilly days with family

And my baby’s graduation party

Gabriel’s Visit to the Ophthalmologist

Yes, we finally found a great group of ophthalmology at VCU. What a team! Loved, loved, loved them!

After a long wait, Gabriel finally went to have his eyes checked today. The doctors and the technology at VCU were fabulous, and most importantly, Gabriel cooperated fully and kept his eyes open for the entire duration of the many tests he underwent. Juan and I were in awe.

It turns out Gabriel’s eyes are PERFECT. Clean cornea, retina, optic nerve, the whole shebang. There isn’t even a trace of the series of persistent iritis he had six months ago. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

This is great news, of course. And it’s also disconcerting, only because we have pretty much tested him for everything there is to test, and we still don’t know why he has had such a strong decline in behavior and mood. The only possible explanation, as far as I’m concerned, unless I’m missing something, is that it is purely sensory.

On that note, it’ll be fabulous to have our dearest friend, Maggie, come visit next week πŸ™‚ Gabriel is going to flip when he sees her!

Anyway, thank you for all who have prayed for Gabriel. I know many of you have and continue to do so. Please don’t stop. He has had several good days, and his eyes have been consistently open for three of them. This is INCREDIBLE. We have suspended the use of migraine medication, which has actually seems fine without it. But we still need to figure out what he struggles with and how to help him, so keep those prayers coming!!

Specific prayer request: Pray that he will receive his Med waiver. He has been on a waiting list for a long while, and it would be amazing for him to get those funds. We can sure put them to good use. Lord, provide the waiver before the fall of this year!!

Sitting casually at the doctor's office :)

Sitting casually at the doctor’s office πŸ™‚

Model patient

Model patient

Ready to go have pizza!!

Ready to go have pizza!!

Gabriel: Answered Prayers!

Back in June, I wrote a desperate request for prayer for Gabriel (In Need of Prayer). Then again, in August (Prayers for Gabriel).

It’s been a couple of years of seeing Gabriel decline, and for close to a year, he has struggled with his eyes, closing them almost 100% of the time, walking around like a blind man, fighting “Iritis”. We have done all sorts of tests on him and have found no cause for the recurring issue. It has been incredibly frustrating. We have also started Gabriel on psych medication for the first time. The process has been long and emotionally taxing.

But today I’m writing with more hope and better expectations, for the following reasons:

  1. Gabriel has been fully opening his eyes for almost 2 weeks! He hasn’t gotten car sick (a side effect of car rides with closed eyes), he is not running into people, and he has been drawing and writing more, just like he used to. This is so encouraging! It is so fantastic to see his beautiful, blue eyes, which have been in hiding for so long!

  2. He seems happier, overall. This means his eyes are probably not hurting and his mood is normalizing again. This also means that the psych meds are probably helping him. Again, encouraging signs for my heart!

  3. He has been approved in a program where I can hire people to work with him at home. I can choose the workers myself and design a program specifically for him! I am currently (and urgently) looking for workers… so message me if you are local and interested πŸ˜‰

So for all of you who have prayed for Gabriel, THANK YOU! I’m not sure if the Iritis will return or not. I really hope it doesn’t. So I ask you to continue to lift him up in prayer. Please ask the Lord to send us the right people to work with him as well, and to design the program that works best for him.

I am so grateful for all of you. The Lord is attentive to the prayers of his people.

About a month ago, Gabriel posing for the camera with his eyes closed

About a month ago, Gabriel posing for the camera with his eyes closed

My Son is Autistic. There, I said it.

My son is autistic. There, I said it.

During the last few years, advocacy groups for the disabled have encouraged the use of “People-First Language”. This concept has become the new and “correct” way of identifying an individual with disabilities. This means that, in my case, it would be incorrect to refer to my son as being autistic. Instead, I would need to say that he has autism. While I do appreciate the effort to not define the person by the disability, I think this is a matter of semantics. And it’s ridiculous.

Think about it. If we were to separate the condition or characteristic from the person, in every instance:

Wrong would be: “I am overweight”. Right would be: “I have extra weight”

Wrong would be: “I am a musician”. Right would be: “I have musicianship” — yeah, that doesn’t even translate.

Wrong would be: “I am talented”. Right would be: “I have talent” — Fine, they both work, but the first one is not really “wrong”

Wrong would be: “I am an American”. Right would be: “I am from America”

So what is the point? Is it to make sure that the autistic individual is not defined by a label? I think the label stands even if we say that someone “has” autism. Being a diabetic and having diabetes are one and the same! Either way, the person is medically defined by the pancreatic decease. Whether the person is or has, he still needs to stay away from sweets, inject insulin, and wear a medical warning on the wrist.

My son has autism, therefore he is autistic. Does it define him? Well, yes. And no. Autism influences the way he perceives the world, the way he processes information, the way he communicates, the way he conducts himself. His extreme talents and equally extreme disabilities and obstacles are because of autism. So yes, autism -not the label- defines him. And yet, autism does not define him. He is my son, autistic or not, he is loved and cared for, autistic or not. He can know God, autistic or not. He has feelings and desires, autistic or not. He loves. He is precious and valuable. So whether he is autistic or has autism, his essence as a person will never change.

My humble opinion is that we should just stop being silly pretending that the use of our verbs will alter the perception of the person. The overweight person can lose the weight, but the autistic person will more than likely never lose his autism. It is what it is. Let’s drop the semantics, people. It’s all good.

Gabriel and Juan hanging out in DC

Gabriel and Juan hanging out in DC

For you created my inmost being;
Β Β Β Β you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Β I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Β Β Β Β your works are wonderful,
Β Β Β Β I know that full well.

Psalm 139:13-14

Prayers for Gabriel

Today has been a difficult day. Gabriel has been struggling for a while and we haven’t known why. So many of you (dear readers) have prayed for him and for our family [In Need of Prayer]. His mood and behavior had deteriorated and we have tried anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds, we have done full blood work, and had no idea what was going on.Β (Sorry, a lot of grammatical mistakes in this paragraph, that I don’t have the clarity to fix)

One of the behaviors he developed was walking around with his eyes closed. We attributed this to sensory issues, typical of his autism. However, around 3 weeks ago, we discovered that his left eye was bright red and severely inflamed. We took him to the emergency room where they diagnosed him with conjunctivitis. We treated him for that but the eye did not improve. For a couple of weeks we’ve been praying for him, worried sick because his eye was not getting better. Last week he saw the specialist who guessed he could have iritis (an irritation of the iris) and treated him with steroids and antibiotics. Yesterday, for the first time, we saw improvement. And we breathed. Today, in his follow-up visit, the doctor confirmed his eye seems to be on its way to healing. Gabriel needs to continue steroid treatment for 3 weeks. The recovery process can be anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks.

And I’m in tears: Tears from guilt, for all those times when I forced him to open his eyes and turned on the light thinking he was exhibiting difficult behavior when he was probably in PAIN; Tears from worry, knowing that iritis can be a symptom of something much deeper and bigger (or not); Tears from relief, knowing that at least we have some sort of an explanation for his behavior, and that his eye is getting better (the fear of blindness has been gripping me); Tears from frustration in my awareness that he doesn’t communicate when things hurt or bother him. How are we supposed to know what he goes through and seek help when we have no clue he is in pain? I’m kind of sort of beside myself right now.

My dear friends, if you feel burdened to pray, please ask the Lord 1. To heal his eye completely, 2. To help him find his way back to peace and contentment, 3. For us to find the appropriate place for him, such as a day program where he can develop work and independent work skills, and 4. For God to supernaturally help him communicate and express his needs effectively (this is a big one)

So here’s what I’m thinking: Things look hopeless, yet I KNOW I have hope. This hope is not in circumstances, diagnoses, wishful thinking, or unrealistic expectations. Real hope happens in spite of and in the midst of pain and difficulties. So here is where I hang my hope today:

The Lord is loving toward all he has made

The Lord upholds all those who fall

And lifts up all who are bowed down

The Lord is is righteous in all his ways

The Lord is near to all who call on him

He fulfills the desires of those who fear him

He hears their cry and saves them

The Lord watches over all who love him

(From Psalm 145)

Gabriel posing with his new sunglasses to shield him from painful light

Gabriel posing with his new sunglasses to shield him from painful light

Book Review: A Place of Healing

I just finished reading A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty by Joni Eareckson Tada, and I give it my highest recommendation.

Joni was paralyzed in a diving accident more than 40 years ago. Now, in her 60s, she’s writes this book while going through a new trial: constant, unshakable pain. What I like most about this book is Joni’s high view of God. Every page oozes with his character, calling, and work, putting all things, especially suffering, into perspective.

If you are struggling with the idea of being a Christian yet not delivered from suffering and pain, buy this book today. If you are dealing with physical illness or disability, this book is for you! Even if you are not presently suffering, this book will minister to you and equip you to be a good friend to those who do suffer. It will encourage you greatly. For me, it has renewed my sense of gratitude and contentment, knowing that my hope in the Lord is unwavering and true.

In Need of Prayer

I’m not gonna lie. I’m feeling very discouraged today. Gabriel is not doing well. Not sure what the issue is but it seems to me he is drowning in anxiety. He has regressed years, to the point where simple tasks like putting on a pair of flip-flops takes 15 minutes and the activities he used to do independently, he can no longer handle. It’s been a steady decline for the past 3 years or so.

He’s slipping away.

Today I was ready to head to church. My family had left already in a separate car and I stayed behind trying to get Gabriel to finish getting ready. But it became impossible to leave the house. He was upset because, apparently, he did want to go to church. I was crying on the inside, filled with frustration, self-pity, empathy, worry, and a whole other list of feelings.

So today I could use prayers from my friends. Don’t need suggestions, really, or opinions on what I should do next. Just prayer. Juan and I need discernment on how to help our son. Gabriel needs a touch from God. The whole family needs peace and wisdom and buckets of love.

Image

 

Gabrieland: Eating Through the Middle

Gabriel has decided that food tastes better when eaten through the middle.

Picture a sandwich, a square sandwich. He will take his first bite in the middle of one side and continue forging through until he has divided the sandwich in two. In the process, he has smeared the inner contents of such sandwich, all over his cheeks. When he eats through a slice of pizza, he will end up with bright red tomato sauce up his nose and even to his ears. If we’re eating out, I’ll need to use at least 13 napkins per slice of pizza, and maybe, perhaps, if we’re lucky, he will look clean upon exiting the restaurant.

I don’t know why he thinks this is the proper way to eat, but to each his own, I guess.

I love this kid with all my heart.

 

 

We Cannot Handle a Son with Autism

My husband and I have heard this a million times: “God knew you could handle it”.

We have an autistic son. Often times people feel “bad” for us: compassion, of a kind, and empathy. In an effort to make sense of the situation, in their minds, they try to comfort us (and convince themselves) by telling us that God knew, in advance, that we could handle it. By implication, this means that He saw something unique in our make up that would better equip us to live with and raise a person with disabilities. As if God scanned through the earth and found the perfect parents for this wonderful angel that would be born, and bestowed on us the well-deserved gift, because, after all, He knew we could handle it.

False.

You see, there is nothing intrinsically better about parents of children with disabilities. We are not superior in any kind of way. We are not more able to bear a burden or to handle difficulty. We are average folk. We are needy people, just like everyone else.

Furthermore, God did not gift us with an autistic child because He knew we could handle it. In fact, He knew we couldn’t handle it. But in HIS goodness, He also gave us (and continues to give us) the love, strength, passion, and determination to care for our son.

However, God DID know this: We would turn into better human beings by having our son in our lives. We would learn to love better, we would grow into more compassionate, understanding people, and we would come to appreciate the smaller things in life.

We are blessed by our Gabriel. Having him as part of our family is a joy and a privilege, and we humbly accept God’s will for his and our lives, not because we are better, but because we are HIS.

Psalm 29:11: “The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.”

Juan and Gabriel