MY JOURNEY WITH LUCAS – CHERYL’S STORY
THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A REASON WHY YOU MEET PEOPLE. EITHER YOU NEED THEM TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE OR YOU’RE THE ONE THAT WILL CHANGE THEIRS.
I have learned so much from the people who came into my life at what I would consider to be my lowest point. That moment where you are pushed to decide whether to overcome, grow and learn from your circumstances or to let your circumstances overcome you. I thought my mom’s passing away at such a young age was that point until a year later my son began to regress into the world of autism. It is so unbelievably painful to watch your child, who was previously loving, developing normally and relating to you, slowly slip away into a shell of the person you once knew.
It is through overcoming these obstacles that you realize your true potential, strength, and heart. I believe the people who come into your life in these moments are meant to be there to help you create who you are and who you will become. I truly don’t know where my son would be without their love, compassion and dedication to our entire family. Although we are not entirely out of the world of autism….yet; I can definitively say that I have my son back because of their efforts and this program. He is again relatable and loving. He calls me mama with such tenderness. He is growing, healing and YES, recovering!
I have learned through these people and this process that it is important to make every moment of every day count. Appreciate these moments and take everything you can from them. Also, embrace every person! Talk to people that you have never talked to before and really attempt to listen. Lastly, allow the room to love yourself. Do this and watch how the world around you and the people in it change in powerful ways! Mine certainly has.
I’d like you to meet Cheryl and here is her story:
Lucas came into my life about 4 years ago. He was placed in a classroom for children with autism where I was working as a Special Education Paraeducator, a job that I’ve been doing for the past17 years. I’m a little older, but I’m young at heart and have a love and passion for these kids. Back then Lucas said very few words, had fleeting eye contact, didn’t want to play with anything, anyone or do any projects, and he loved stimming/isming at shiny posters that were hanging from the ceiling. When given a direction that he did not want to do, he would show his frustration by scratching us. Somehow through all of that, Lucas and I made a connection. Little did I know this was only the beginning of what was to come.
My heart always goes out to the parents of the kids coming through our program. At the beginning these parents are just starting to wrap their brains around what is being discovered about their child. Many go through a denial stage. After that some may go through a mourning stage for the “normal” child they had envisioned having. While dealing with this, they are also trying to make a lot of decisions for what pathway they want for their child. Life is changing so much more than they had expected.
Some families touch me more than others. Shannon and Brad were one of those families. Watching them go through this process was tough. I remember walking with Shannon down the hall at the end of Lucas’s first year with us, she had tears in her eyes. She was telling me that her mom had passed away a few years prior and she really, really needed to talk to her now. My heart ached for her.
Two years later Shannon contacted me about working with Lucas in the Son-Rise program. I had never heard of it until then. She told me about the program, dropped a packet of information off to me and asked me to think about joining them to try this program with Lucas. Like I ever stood a chance of saying no! I watched the DVD’s, read the information and thought, what a different approach! I had some doubts about it being as great as the packet claimed it to be, but I have watched kids go through the schools and know the end results. I thought it would be interesting to try a new approach and see if it would make a difference.
When I first started joining Lucas in the playroom, it was uncomfortably awkward. Instead of trying to get Lucas to fit into my world and act like me, I was trying to fit into his world and act like him. I had to learn to check my “adultness” and “outside world” at the door and embrace his world by running back and forth, bouncing on a giant ball, chewing a chewy, shaking toys, making faces in a mirror, putting things on my face and head, acting super silly, giving tickles and squeezes, singing songs and repeating everything he said and sound he made. If that wasn’t awkward enough, I also had to get used to giant mirrors on the walls and cameras filming my every move, song and sound. Yikes! It took a while for me to get comfortable in the room and not care what anyone thought of me. But when you see Lucas smile and how he responds and connects with you, you get it. You love, love, love being there with him no matter how tired you are, how long your day has been or how insecure you feel about seeing yourself.
I’ve been asked many times since I’ve joined Lucas whether I really think the Son-Rise program is making a difference. Two years later of working in the program, I’m loving the difference! It not only made a difference in Lucas’s life, but it also made a difference in my life and how I interact with the kids I work with. Words can’t express the look and smile on a child with autism’s face when you join their world for the first time.
Lucas is rapidly progressing and meeting every goal being set for him. He has come a long way since pre-school. This week when I got to the house, Lucas was outside playing. He came into the house, looked into my eyes, smiled, came over to me, grabbed my hands, placed his forehead against my forehead and said “Hi”. He now plays with us, requests what he wants in full sentences, says I love you, smiles, laughs, gives hugs and kisses, seeks affection, looks us in the eyes when talking, jokes with us, no longer scratches, hits or kicks and is starting to act like a “normal ” kid. When we had our first meeting a couple of years ago, as we walked into their home, we were told that loud noises bothered Lucas so to talk quietly to not upset him. Now when we walk in we’re all talking and laughing, and Lucas is in the middle enjoying it all.
The Son-Rise program to me is acceptance and hope. Accepting Lucas for who he is and giving him hope and a chance for recovery. I’m loving being on this journey with him and his family, and I can’t wait to see what’s coming in his future!