Homeschooling initially started with my eldest son, Nathaniel. You may remember a tall blonde helping me in some of my experiment videos. I didn't necessarily have a desire to homeschool at the time, but it was a necessity. Nathaniel was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. I am not talking about high-functioning autism, or a savant. He was diagnosed with low-functioning autism.
What did that mean? That meant that life was really complicated.
Nathaniel was non-verbal. You know, I used to think that when someone mentioned having a non-verbal child, that they meant that they were just quiet. What I didn't realize was the frustration that non-verbal children experience. It was not a quiet life, actually it was quite the opposite! Poor Nate was miserable. He was in a lot of pain and could not verbalize what was going on. He really couldn't verbalize anything except a few words, maybe 5 words at the age of 5 years old.
It was hard to go anywhere. He was afraid of sliding doors and the possibility of the fire alarm going off. (Walmart did a drill once when we were there & he never did forget it.) He had the hardest time sleeping, which meant that we ALL had a hard time sleeping. He would get out of his bed at the age of 2 and would knock his head on the baseboards really hard! It was so loud. There is nothing like waking up to the sound of banging. He would hit his head so hard that he actually broke through the baseboard and he had a bald spot on the front of his head. We never really knew if he would ever grow hair there again. (It wasn't later until doing some research, that I realized if you hit your head right in that spot, any pain that you have will temporarily not be felt.)
Ryan and I knew that Nate needed our help, so we dove in...ALL IN! My husband & I flew up to Massachusetts to the Autism Treatment Center of America. There we received training to run a social development therapy program for him. I also read as many science books as possible about autism & healing the gut. From the age of 5 to 9 years old, we ran that therapy program out of our house. This required finding volunteers, regularly training them, giving daily feedback, recording all therapy sessions, and knowing the direction that we were going short-term and long-term with Nathaniel.
(Training at the Autism Treatment Center of America)
During this time, we did not focus on academics. We focused on social development. You know, all those things that people do easily without being taught! Eye contact, verbal communication, non-verbal communication, flexibility, attention span...just to name a few. At the age of 7, Nathaniel said "dad" for the first time and noticed that Ryan was there! We will never forget that day! He changed so much during those 4 years and so did I. I would not be who I am today if I had not had him being such a good catalyst in my life.
(Nathaniel in the middle of therapy with a trained volunteer, Elizabeth.)
(Our 4th team of volunteers that worked with Nathaniel.)
Where is he today? You have seen him in the videos. I am sure that you can tell that he has a delay. He is a simple, but a delightful young man. There is no one who has made us laugh as hard as Nathaniel, because you never really know what he will say. He cannot lie and he is very forthright. Teaching him to read was so much work and it felt like he was learning as slow as molasses, but he knows how to read! He is currently writing a story and is drawing pictures to go with his book that he wants to get published. He enjoys being around people and has no issues with any last minute changes of plans. He is kind and loving. I am so proud of him and his hard work! He has done so much more than what doctors and experts thought he would ever be able to do! Praise God!
Why am I telling you all of this? Some of you are struggling. Some of you have struggling learners. Let me be the one to tell you, "Keep pressing on!" Learn how your child learns and then meet them there. Don't compare your child or yourself to anyone else. There is not another you! There is not another child like yours! God has entrusted you with your child, and He makes no accidents. He will give you wisdom. It is SO worth the investment of your energy, time, hope, and love. Hear me cheering you on!