The morning sun played cat and mouse with the gray clouds and finally won the battle, promising God’s blessing upon the special day. Two rays targeted Noelle’s open Bible on the table beside her cup of steaming coffee as she praised God for a day many doubted would come. For it was Alexander’s graduation day, and she knew she would be the proudest parent present at the upcoming ceremony.
Traveling back over the past twenty years, her mind played scenes across her heart like a Bach symphony, blending discords with the victorious rhythm that composed her firstborn son . . .
Due to a placental abruption, an emergency C-section was performed two weeks before Noelle’s due date; nevertheless, the newborn’s AGAR score was 9 out of 10, a good sign of a healthy baby. Months later, because Alexander seemed to have difficulty holding his head up well, he was eventually diagnosed with Hypotonia, a low-muscle tone condition that contributed to developmental delays. . .
It was not often Noelle allowed herself to span back to that difficult time of uncertainty and fear, for it was painful to replay the following years of medical tests, Alexander’s challenges of physical therapies, special education aides in his classrooms and eventually, a gluten-free diet. His cyclic vomiting episodes whenever he became ill with typical childhood colds or distresses were terribly taxing and exaggerated. Hours of tears and piercing wailing of “MAMA, MAMA, MAMA,” over and over like a stuck record still made her shudder.
It wasn’t until baby brother David was born three years later that Alexander’s parents recognized, by comparison, that some of the older brother’s behaviors and reactions went beyond the physical delays. Notwithstanding, he was an engaging youngster who brought joy and laughter to those around him, his cute antics endearing him to family and teachers alike. But it would still be years before a more discerning diagnosis was given to explain Alexander’s little quirks and unique qualities. Specialists determined it as PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder—Not Otherwise Specified), a conclusion reached “by exclusion” . . .
Even now, Noelle’s heart fluttered at the dreaded seven-letter word uttered that first day of awakening.
“Your son has several traits that we believe are from an autism-spectrum disorder. He does not evidence the severest autistic warning signs, especially since he is so highly communicative and verbal, which is why some professionals have not suspected this.”
But what she heard was,
“AUTISTIC. Our delightful son will forever be branded as AUTISTIC,” imagining the scarlet letter “A” hanging around his neck like the character in the well-known novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Only with God’s help would she have been able to cope with all of the stigma, the ensuing tests and information, the documents to be filed for insurance purposes, the medical histories she painstakingly documented. But, in hindsight, it turned out to be a good thing, like so many negative things in our lives that God turns into positives, for it opened many doors to get the help Alexander needed to progress . . .
Her coffee now grown cold and the words before her blurring through her tears, Noelle’s heart ached for the struggling child of old who would always have to exert himself twice as hard as his peers and siblings to learn and grow; emotionally and physically, as well as intellectually. Through it all, though frustratingly slower than the proverbial tortoise pace, he had, ever so slowly, advanced . . .
It wasn’t until he was a teenager that Alexander began to understand and work with his limitations. Then, the therapies, sports attempts and gross motor skill strengthening unsuccessful or greatly inhibited when he was younger, began to bear fruit. Physical exercise became his friend instead of the enemy of his childhood as he learned how to channel his energy and will-power to fortify his weakened muscles. He welcomed the demands of swimming against the tide, sometimes literally, of his low muscle tone. Eventually, his perseverance had paid off . . .
Noelle’s burdened heart lightened as her grown son’s heavy footfalls approached. Graduation cap crooked and rustling gown tickling his thin ankles, his winning smile enveloped his mother like a warm caress.
Arm in arm, they joined his younger brother, sister, and father waiting on the doorstep for the festivities of Alexander’s well-earned and fought for, day.
“HIS day . . . OUR day . . .GOD’s day of redemption and victory for our ACHIEVER son, Alexander!”
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