Does a child with special needs exhibit the same behaviors at worship and Sunday School that he or she does at school? Or, is church exempt from such behaviors? Of course, it’s the same! A child with Autism can not turn on or off the behaviors merely by changing the surroundings. The following stories are written by Mandy Storer. She and her husband, Aaron have three precious children – Asher, Abram, and Audrey. These stories tell the journey that her sons have traveled before and after enrolling them in the Educational Center for Autism at Evange.
First, my oldest child, Asher, is 5 years old. He started the program as a 3-year-old after 1 semester of pre-school in a well-respected “typical” program. He was basically non-verbal, and began to push other children in attempts to interact, as he had no verbal communication skills. We were asked to begin looking for other options as the teachers were struggling to make breakthroughs with my child in any area. We searched many other educational options, traditional and non-traditional, and were rejected by all but one- The Educational Center for Autism. At the time, it broke this momma’s heart, but now I see God’s vision was unfolding during our entire experience. Asher needed to be here, where EVERYONE understands that every child has different challenges, and EVERY CHILD gets an individualized curriculum designed specifically for their skill set and challenges. Within a year, my child was verbally communicating! My child, who I was pegged as a painfully shy introvert with separation anxiety, was walking through the school halls with his head held high and a smile on his face greeting everyone he passed. Even I, as his mother who loved him so deeply, had misinterpreted and underestimated him because I did not understand his challenges and capabilities. The staff at ECAustism gave me the greatest gift- Hope. And my faith and gratitude has continued to grow throughout my experience here. Parents lift up other parents, positive words are spoken over our children continuously, and all staff BELIEVE in our children. To sum up Asher’s story, let me leave you with this…he has now begun 5-year-old kindergarten on schedule, we finished our first basketball season, and are now starting t-ball. No one knows, unless I tell them, that my child has a diagnosis of autism.
Abram, my 4-year-old middle child, has a completely different story. Abram has always been a happy child. He rarely got upset, but when he did, he was inconsolable for hours. It was a challenge even for those closest to him. He often “flew under the radar” because he was content in his own head. He required very little attention from others, but also rarely interacted with others, which was a stark difference from Asher. When the staff at ECAutism mentioned to me their concern that Abram had autism as well, I was in denial. How is that possible? They are COMPLETELY different! Once again, it was a fact that I was ignorant of before this program. There are no two cases of autism that look the same. When Abram began the program, he would rarely answer to his own name and only had 3 words. Now, he’s my little jokester, super-hero loving happy child whose charm and charisma captures the hearts of everyone he meets. While he’s always been so loved, he now loves back in return. Abram just started his first wee ball season. As soon as we got out of the car for his first practice, he ran to the group of kids on the field without any urging from me. Within 2 minutes, he had made a buddy and they were taking turns whacking each other with gloves, laughing the entire time. I pick my battles!
This article does not serve as an advertisement for the EC Center, but it is as encouragement for parents to seek the available programs in the area that would meet the particular needs of their child/children. What a difference this program has made for these two guys! Their ready smiles on Sunday mornings at church are awesome indicators of the progress and self-confidence that the boys have gained. The Storer family gives God the glory for leading them to the center which was perfect for them.