Sunday, December 16, 2018

Three Cubed

“December 16, 1991.” Over the past twenty-seven years, I have mindlessly rattled off that date countless times in doctor’s offices and pharmacies as well as over the phone to insurance companies and special services providers. In true Jeopardy format, I could tell the significance of this date in the form of a question: “What is Alex’s birthdate?” However, the judges would also have to accept the following as correct: “What is the date I became a mom?” or “When was the most fascinating person I’ve ever met born?” or “What is the day my life forever changed for the better?” Certainly, becoming Alex’s mom has allowed me to experience life in ways I could have never expected, and for that, I will be forever grateful to God and to Alex.

If it were not for Alex, I would not appreciate the wonder of numbers. As someone who has always loved words, mathematics held no particular interest for me. However, for Alex, numbers allow him to make sense of the world: how big, how far, how tall, how expensive, how hot, how many, how long. He treasures measuring devices that give him the answers and perspectives he seeks, such as clocks, calendars, and rulers. He notices and happily announces patterns that others might miss, including when the temperature is the same as the number of minutes on the clock, when the gas prices are the same as pi, and that our phone number is a prime number. Indeed, even Alex’s new age––twenty-seven––becomes more interesting because it is a perfect cube (3 times 3 times 3). Because Alex has shared his love of numbers with me, I have realized that despite the infinite possibilities and seeming randomness of life, patterns and plans are waiting to be discovered. We only need to keep looking for them with enthusiasm, as Alex does every hour of every day.

If it were not for Alex, I wouldn’t have realized the depths of goodness in the man I married. Having the opportunity to witness the caring and patience and unconditional love Ed has developed since becoming Alex’s dad has been a gift. Since Alex usually sits between the two of us when we take him to concerts and sporting events, I often see Alex lean toward his dad in these situations to ask him a question or make a comment. With their two heads literally and figuratively together, they share a bond most father and sons would envy. The other evening, I heard Bob Dylan Christmas music coming from the basement and walked downstairs to find the two of them having a grand time, enjoying the music they love and I don’t. While being an autism dad has been challenging, Ed has stepped up and been the father Alex needed. In return, he has been rewarded with Alex’s devotion to him.

If it were not for Alex, I wouldn’t know how precious the last few minutes before falling asleep are. After we say bedtime prayers together, in which Alex asks God to bless practically everyone he’s ever met, not to delay going to sleep, but because these people have made an impression upon him, we engage in a nightly routine that is familiar and comforting. We discuss his schedule for the next day and say, “Love you” to each other. Because Alex has sensory issues that make physical affection difficult for him, the verbalizing of our love takes on greater value. Nonetheless, over time, he has become more tolerant of touch, smiling as he lifts his head off his pillow for me to kiss his forehead or cheek. I really don’t think Alex needs a bedtime kiss from me to know he’s loved, but I think he offers his sweet face to me because he knows how much it means to me.

If it were not for Alex, my faith in God would not be as strong. Not only has autism tested and developed my faith, but also being able to witness Alex’s complete trust and faith in God has provided a model of how I need to believe. When Alex was struggling mightily with anxiety, I would kneel beside his bed as he slept, praying earnestly for God to help him and comfort him in ways that I could not. When Alex is doing well and content with life, as he has been lately, I offer prayers throughout the day, thanking God for how far He has brought Alex. Despite wanting to control every aspect of Alex’s life, I have learned that God’s ways are far better than mine, and I have learned to trust and wait upon God instead of leaning on my own understanding.

Although I don’t know what the future holds for Alex and honestly worry about how autism may make his life more difficult than necessary, I do know that God has plans for him He hasn’t shared with me, probably knowing I would want to tweak them myself. Nonetheless, He has entrusted this precious child to me, and I have tried to teach him the important lessons in life. Twenty-seven years later, I burst with pride at the fine young man Alex has become and thank God for the best student and teacher I’ve ever had, as well as the most precious gift God has ever given me.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

Sunday, December 9, 2018


Armed with a Sudoku puzzle and a crossword puzzle to keep myself occupied and slightly distracted, I sat in the waiting room last Thursday afternoon while Alex was engaged in music therapy. This change of setting was different for both of us, as usually Alex’s music therapist comes to our home, and I sit in a nearby room where I can eavesdrop on their session. With the therapy room at the back of the building from where I was sitting in the front of the office, I didn’t know how things were going, but I hoped for the best, praying all would go smoothly.

A few weeks ago, Alex’s music therapist apologetically told us that his company wanted clients to start having sessions in their office instead of at home. Because Alex has been doing remarkably well lately, his music therapist didn’t want to make any changes that might cause setbacks in his progress. Knowing that he was just following company policy, I reassured him that Alex would adjust to the changes and be fine. Moreover, I suggested that maybe the change in setting would be good for Alex.

Wanting to make the transition as easy as possible, the music therapist and I discussed with Alex that only the place would change; everything else would remain the same. His sessions would meet the same day at the same time, would last the same amount of time, and would follow the same procedures. I told Alex that we would take along the clipboard and notepad they use every week for his therapist to write down the songs they sing as well as a deck of cards so that they can play the game War as a reward for a good session. Also, with his therapist’s approval, I assured Alex that I would bring orange juice in a sport bottle for him to drink during the session there, just as he does at home. I suspect that he thought his therapist and I were overdoing the pep talk, as he seemed quite calm and unfazed by the change of venue. Nonetheless, his therapist told me that if sessions didn’t go well at the office, he would talk to his supervisor about keeping Alex’s sessions at home.

Sitting in the waiting room alone, I thought about how much of life revolves around waiting and wondering. Especially with special needs children, parents spend a great deal of time in waiting rooms of doctors and therapists, wondering what the professionals will tell them about their children’s conditions. In addition, parents of special needs children often wait a long time for their children to master skills, to achieve milestones, and to overcome obstacles. In short, we spend countless hours waiting for our children to get better.

When I find myself waiting impatiently, I need to look no further than Alex’s example because he has become amazingly calm about waiting. In the past week or so, he has sat patiently waiting for two Christmas concerts to begin and for two basketball games to start. Because we usually arrive early to get seats that are best for Alex, we often wind up sitting a while before the activity actually starts. Nonetheless, he doesn’t seem to mind waiting; he’s just happy to be where he wants to be.

At the end of Alex’s music therapy session, both he and his therapist returned to the waiting room smiling, his therapist giving me a “thumbs up” signal. Furthermore, his therapist told me Alex did “fantastic,” despite any concerns we had about how he would adapt. His therapist started laughing as he told me that Alex had wanted to know where the bathroom was in the building. When he showed Alex the location, opened the door, and asked if he needed to use the restroom, Alex bluntly told him, “No, it’s too stinky in there!” To Alex, overpowering air freshener would be as offensive as any bathroom smells might be, so I’m not sure what he found to be so off-putting. Nevertheless, he won’t likely be asking to use the bathroom during session.

With one good session behind him, we pray for future success as Alex continues having music therapy at the office instead of at home. However, I do have to admit that I’ll miss eavesdropping on their conversations and listening to them sing together. Nonetheless, his therapist and I are relieved and delighted and thankful that Alex handled the new situation so well and are hopeful that he will continue to make good progress there.

“Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes; wait patiently for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

Sunday, December 2, 2018

One in Forty

An article published in the December 2018 issue of the journal Pediatrics indicates that the current rate of autism in the United States is 1 in 40 children. “The Prevalence of Parent-Reported Autism Spectrum Disorder Among U.S. Children” details research led by Michael D. Kogan, Ph.D. and his colleagues at the Office of Epidemiology and Research at the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau. [To read this article, please click here.] Their study analyzed parent survey data from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health and included 43,283 children 3-17 years old.

For this survey, parents were asked if a doctor and/or another health care provider had ever told them that their child had autism. The parents were also asked if their children currently had autism. Of the parents surveyed, 2.5% responded that their children had received an autism diagnosis from a medical professional and still had autism. This translates into approximately 1.5 million children in the United States with autism. In addition, the data showed that boys are 3.5 times more likely than girls to have autism.

In comparing this survey to other similar surveys regarding autism prevalence, the researchers noted that the National Health Interview Survey yielded similar statistics. The results of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM), which were reported in April of this year, showed a lower rate of autism: 1.7% of children with autism, or 1 in 59 children. Dr. Kogan’s team notes that the ADDM survey focused only on eight-year-old children in eleven communities in 2014, whereas their research covers a wider range of ages across the country in a more recent survey.

In addition to citing the increase in the rate of autism in the United States, the researchers emphasize that children with autism have greater health needs than typical children. Specifically, 83% of children with autism have at least one health condition, such as asthma, eczema, gastrointestinal issues, or seizures, accompanying autism. Furthermore, they found that children with autism are more likely than other children with behavioral, developmental, or emotional disorders to have seen a specialist and to have received mental health counseling, early intervention, and special education services.

However, finding proper care for children with autism proves difficult, the researchers discovered. The survey indicated that parents were 44% more likely to have difficulty getting mental health treatment for their children with autism. Moreover, children with autism are 46% less likely to receive needed mental health care. The researchers also found that 64% of the children with autism had received behavioral therapy in the past twelve months. In addition, 27% of the children with autism took medications for symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, and hyperactivity.

Aside from a lack of mental health care availability, the researchers also noted problems finding a “medical home” for each child with autism. They defined medical home as having five criteria, all of which must be met for the patient: a personal doctor or nurse, a usual place for sick care, no problems getting referrals, family-centered care, and effective care coordination. Their survey indicated that children with autism were 23% less likely to have a medical home, and 24% were less likely to have their care coordinated. Clearly, having professionals work together to improve the child’s physical and mental health is crucial in autism, but more coordination of services must be done.

As the researchers state, autism rates have been increasing over the past thirty to forty years. Other studies have demonstrated the significant rise in the number of children diagnosed with autism. Specifically, the rate of autism in the United States has gone from 1 in 5000 in 1975 to 1 in 2500 in 1985 to 1 in 500 in 1995 to 1 in 250 in 2001 to 1 in 166 in 2004 to 1 in 110 in 2009 to 1 in 88 in 2012. This new research now makes another leap to 1 in 40 in 2016. The researchers speculate that the increase is due to better and earlier diagnosis, broader diagnostic criteria for autism, greater parental awareness, and some increased risk factors, such as older parents.

The sudden increase in numbers of children with autism poses a financial hardship as well as difficulties noted in finding proper physical and mental health care. The researchers indicated that the cost of providing proper health care and non-health care for a child with autism is $17,081 greater per year than for a typical child. Moreover, the researchers cited data from 2011 indicating that the total societal cost of caring for children with autism in the United States was estimated to be $11.5 billion per year. Considering the number of children in the U.S. has doubled or tripled since then, the cost of caring for them would also significantly rise.

The researchers conclude their article as follows: “Because ASD [autism spectrum disorder] is a lifelong condition for most children, an important area of future research would be to study life course development and understand what factors influence health and well-being in young adulthood and beyond for these children.” Well, the good news is that they will probably have a lot of people with autism available to study, especially if the rates keep increasing dramatically. The bad news is that they will get no closer to finding the cause of autism if they continue to stick with the better diagnosis/greater awareness/increased diagnostic criteria reasoning. At what point will the medical profession declare we have a health care crisis as more and more children are diagnosed with autism, a lifelong condition?

Instead of just counting the number of children with autism and admitting they need better access to care, researchers need to figure out the true causes of autism. For example, what roles do environmental toxins, such as heavy metals, play in autism? Furthermore, instead of denying that vaccines cause autism, perhaps an unbiased reexamination of their effects upon children should be taken. One only need to see that the dramatic increase in autism follows the dramatic increase in the number of vaccines recommended by the CDC for children between birth and five years of age. In 1962, only three shots were recommended, but in 1983, ten shots were advised. The 2018 CDC Recommended Immunization Schedule now includes 38 shots.

The researchers who proclaim the new rate of autism is 1 in 40 American children never address the possibility that environmental toxins or the increased rate of vaccines may be related to autism. Until doctors and researchers are willing to consider all possible causes of autism and seek ways to make our children with autism healthier, we can anticipate that the autism rates will likely go higher. We can only hope and pray that our merciful God will save us and our children from this calamity, for He can heal what humans cannot.

“From six calamities He will rescue you; in seven no harm will touch you.” Job 5:19

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Comfort in Letting God Lead

Recently, I ran into an acquaintance, another autism mom I hadn’t seen for a while. Our sons are about the same age, and she has remarked that Alex reminds her quite a bit of her own son, whom I’ve never met.  When I asked her how her son was doing, a look of sorrow came over her face as she explained that he is very ill. Imagining how I would feel if Alex were in the same situation, I expressed my genuine concern and told her how sorry I was to hear he is so sick. Then, she candidly admitted, “I don’t know what God is thinking.”

Unsure of the right words to say to her, I could only earnestly respond, “I don’t know, either.” Nothing I could say would minimize her worry or fears, yet I hoped that she found some comfort in being able to say what she was feeling to another mother who could understand all the struggles she has faced throughout her son’s life. Moreover, while she doesn’t understand God’s plan now, she knows He has one. As I have been praying for her and her son to have peace as they wait on the Lord, I have been thinking about how we can comfort those in need, especially since I know others I care about are also currently carrying heavy burdens.

In Chapter 9 of his inspirational book, Aching Joy, pastor and autism dad Jason Hague describes how well-meaning friends sometimes offer platitudes instead of the true comfort we really need. Specifically, he mentions the adage, “God never gives you anything you can’t handle.” He notes, “This phrase is not biblical, despite what people think.” He goes on to explain, “I hate the implication that God serves up such hardships like a waiter…” Although he notes that we have strength and resilience to deal with hardships, we cannot endure them alone. As he explains, “No matter how high the water rises, the God of Moses carries us on his shoulders. In our weakness, he is strong. And since we walk with him, he makes us strong, too.”

Perhaps our own experiences and struggles can allow us to be empathetic and compassionate to those who truly need comfort instead of just spouting glib phrases. If we share those times of darkness and doubt, others can see that God brought us through them, offering hope for the future. In 2 Colossians 1:4, the apostle Paul writes, “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

As much as I would like to erase completely from my memory the trying times we faced when Alex’s behavior was fueled by extreme anxiety and spiraling out of control, I hope that sharing our experiences might help others. When we didn’t know what to do to help Alex, God led us to professionals who did know what to do. While helping Alex get better took a long time and a true test of our faith, we can look back and know that God had a plan. However, at the time, I kept trying to direct the situation myself and felt frustrated that God wasn’t answering my prayers on my timeline. When I finally relinquished control to God, putting my complete trust in Him, things started to fall into place. I had to admit that I didn’t understand why we had to go through all these struggles, but I trusted that God’s ways were better than mine. And they were.

Often, I’ve told people who know me well that I think one of the main lessons God wants me to learn in life is patience. Some of them have told me that they think I’m very patient; however, I’m still not naturally patient, in spite of the lessons God has given me. Instead, I think of myself as just tenacious, plugging away at making Alex better while strengthening my faith. As someone who likes to plan and organize every detail, I still have to be reminded that I’m not as in charge as I like to think I am.

Last week, on a smaller scale, God put me in my proper place again. With good intentions and well-thought plans, I was going take Alex completely off one of his medications. Since I already had the approval of his psychiatric nurse practitioner to make this change, and because Alex had responded well to prior dosage reductions of this particular medication, I felt certain this was the right time. Three days into the plan, his nurse practitioner’s office called to tell me that Alex’s thyroid hormone levels tested too high. Consequently, he needed to reduce his thyroid medication dosage by half immediately. Because we never do more than one medication change at a time so that we can easily note any reactions, I knew that we would have to abandon the plans to eliminate the other medication for now.

Even though I was frustrated and disappointed that we couldn’t move forward with getting him off the other medication, I realized that God had a different medication reduction plan than I did. Perhaps now is not the right time to remove that medication, and I need to trust that God, the great healer, knows better than I do. Certainly, any medication reduction is a cause for celebration, and God reminded me that He has a plan that supersedes any of mine. If I had any doubt or lack of faith, I have been comforted that Alex has responded quite well so far to the reduction in thyroid medication. Once again, I have to trust that God’s ways are always better than mine. And they are.

“When doubts filled my mind, Your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.” Psalm 94:19

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Joy Overflowing

“Happiness depends on circumstances; joy depends on God.” ~ Reverend Billy Graham

Despite the ways autism impairs Alex’s language and social skills, he is intent upon sharing the things that bring him joy. Galloping through the house with his lanky six-foot-tall frame, he seeks us out several times a day to tell us about something he finds delightful. As he happily relates something he’s seen or heard that he finds interesting, amusing, or exciting, we are pleased that he wants to include us. With his contagious enthusiasm, we can’t help but share in his overflowing joy, even in seemingly simple matters.

For example, Alex’s interest in numbers and mathematical concepts has led him to an interest in the economy. He closely follows the stock market and gets excited when stocks are doing well. Not just content that the markets are doing well, he also wants to know why the economy is thriving. Knowing that certain events will lead to a good day on the stock market, he will ask Ed, “What’s the good news?” While an up day on the stock market makes Alex happy, knowing the reasons why makes him even happier.

Similarly, Alex finds watching oil prices interesting, and he knows that oil prices will influence gasoline prices. Even though Alex doesn’t own a car, buy gasoline, or even drive, he still keeps a close watch on gas prices. Besides comparing gas prices on the Gas Buddy website and at various gas stations as we drive around town, he has recently discovered a new favorite website, Fuelcaster, that predicts future gas prices. Lately, he’s been happily announcing to us after checking Fuelcaster, “Gas prices are going down tomorrow!” Fortunately, this information comes in quite handy so that we can plan our trips to the gas station and save a few cents per gallon.

Besides following economic trends, Alex additionally takes great pleasure in watching game shows on television. Along with learning trivia and how much common items cost, he has also learned to be genuinely happy for people he has never met. Often, he will come running to tell us that someone won a car on Wheel of Fortune or The Price Is Right, and he’s thrilled that they have won a grand prize. Recently, he’s been watching reruns of Supermarket Sweep, and he likes when the contestants earn extra time so that their chances of winning the final round are better. Nearly every day, he will energetically tell us, “Someone got three minutes!” He is also pleased when contestants win large sums of money on Jeopardy. People on game shows have no idea that they have such a strong cheerleader in Alex.

Aside from watching business shows and game shows, Alex also takes pleasure from listening to voices and music. He’s especially fascinated by little kids’ voices, and he will eagerly tell us that he heard someone with “a young voice.” He also likes listening to singers with raspy voices, especially Bob Dylan—I blame his father for that. If he hears someone singing with a gravelly voice, he will come running to ask us, “Is that Bob Dylan?” Even if it’s not Bob, Alex is still delighted to listen to a similar vocal style. Even more entertaining to watch is when Alex recognizes a song he likes. As a smile crosses his face, he will eagerly proclaim the song as his “favorite song.” Apparently, he has about two dozen favorite songs, according to what he has told us, but clearly these special songs fill him with joy. I especially like watching him listen to the live version of Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places.” I’m not sure whether Alex likes this particular rendition because it’s not played as often as the regular CD version or because he finds the telling off of the “little lady” quite amusing. Nonetheless, he always grins when he hears it.

While Alex appreciates the daily joys in life, he also greatly values things that happen infrequently. He delights in those events that he deems “rare” and “special,” such as holidays or world records. He will announce these occurrences with a proper amount of awe: “It’s rare for a basketball team to score one hundred points!” or “It’s rare for the temperature to be minus digits!” or “It’s rare for Daddy to talk on the phone!” Even more entertaining to watch is when Alex proclaims in an animated way that something is “extremely rare.” For example, “It’s extremely rare for old ladies NOT to have old lady voices!” Even in the seemingly mundane, Alex finds something novel that makes him happy.

Even though autism has placed obstacles on Alex’s life, God has blessed him with an ease in finding joy in everyday experiences. As we approach the celebration of Thanksgiving later this week, I’m grateful for the lessons Alex has taught me. First, listen for the delightful lilt of a child’s voice or the familiar first notes of a favorite tune. Then, feel happy for economic upturns or someone else’s good fortune. Finally, look for the rare and special things in life, including those people like Alex who find joy in simple things and unexpected places and who share these blessings so that we, too, feel joy.

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Insomnia and Autism

Occasionally, we’ll hear Alex come walking downstairs from his bedroom after his nightly 10:00 bedtime to inform us that he’s “having difficulty sleeping.” Usually, we can remedy this problem by adjusting the vent in his room to make it warmer or cooler, attending to any physical issues bothering him, or reassuring him that a noisy thunderstorm won’t last much longer. Because these instances of sleep problems are relatively rare now, we’re thankful that he’s overcome the nightly bouts of insomnia that occurred when he was younger.

When Alex was a little boy, we’d often awaken to find him turning on the lights in his bedroom to read a book or sitting in a living room recliner to watch The Weather Channel or overseas stock market reports on television in the middle of the night. He never seemed upset that he couldn’t sleep, but we knew this was an issue that needed to be fixed so that we all could get a good night’s sleep.

According to the article, “Sleep problems in autism, explained,” written by Hannah Furfaro and published November 13, 2017, on the website Spectrum, sleep issues are quite common in children with autism. [To read this article, please click here.] While 10-16% of typical children have problems with sleeping, an astounding 44-86% of children with autism have serious difficulties with sleeping.

In contrast to typical people, those with autism take a longer time to fall asleep: an average of eleven minutes longer than most people. In addition, many people with autism awaken frequently during the night. For some, these nightly interruptions of sleep are related to apnea, which causes them to stop breathing several times during the night. Studies also show that people with autism spend less time in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. While typical people spend 23% of their sleep time engaged in REM, those with autism are only in REM sleep 15% of the time. This difference proves important because REM sleep plays a key role in learning and retaining memories.

Researchers have identified potential reasons for the differences in sleep patterns for people with autism. First, some people with autism take medications that may interfere with their sleep, such as stimulants prescribed for those who also have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Also, many people with autism have coexisting conditions, including anxiety and ADHD, which make sleeping more difficult. Moreover, many people with autism have gastrointestinal issues that may cause abdominal pains that disturb sleep.

Along with physical conditions, some people with autism have genetic mutations that may be related to sleep difficulties. For example, some genetic mutations associated with autism impact melatonin levels. Melatonin is a natural hormone that regulates the cycles of being awake and asleep. Too little melatonin in the system can cause difficulties with sleeping. Apparently, this genetic mutation is rather common in autism. In 2005, researchers discovered that people with autism were twice as likely to have genetic mutations impacting the sleep-wake cycle as typical people.

No matter what the cause of poor sleep in people with autism may be, the effects are consistently detrimental. A lack of sleep in children with autism tends to lead to negative behaviors, such as more severe repetitive behaviors and more impaired social skills. Children who have autism and sleep issues also tend to score lower on intelligence tests. These observed consequences of lack of sleep in children with autism may be related to the increased hyperactivity and distractibility noted in a 2009 research study. However, scientists have not yet ascertained whether the sleep issues cause the behavior issues or whether the behaviors, such as hyperactivity or anxiety, cause the sleep difficulties.

Nonetheless, certain methods may help improve sleep for children and adults with autism. Following a bedtime routine with a specific order of activities may be useful. Moreover, keeping a regular schedule of times to go to sleep and times to wake up may assist the body and brain in establishing consistent sleep-wake cycles. Also, adjusting temperatures and lighting in the bedroom may be needed to help the person with autism sleep better. Finally, melatonin supplements offer a safe and effective way to help children and adults with autism go to sleep more quickly and to engage in better quality sleep, according to researchers.

Finding ways to help people with autism improve their sleep offers them several benefits. Specifically, Angela Maxwell-Horn, assistant professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, notes that better sleep allows children with autism to decrease their irritability and to improve their learning and behavior.

From our experience with overcoming Alex’s sleep difficulties, I would also note that time-release melatonin may be helpful to some people with autism. Not only does this supplement help people fall asleep faster, but the time-release component also helps them stay asleep all night. In addition, since some people with autism have sound sensitivity and can hear even barely audible noises, a source of white noise, such as a fan or a sound machine, might be helpful. We keep a small air cleaner fan running in Alex’s bedroom at all times to create a subtle whirring sound that drowns out other noises while filtering the air. Although he no longer takes melatonin supplements, as he did when he was younger, Alex sleeps peacefully nearly every night. Thankfully, using routines, schedules, and white noise enables Alex to get the rest his body needs. Moreover, we certainly don’t miss having to interrupt his insomniac 3 A.M. reading or television watching sessions. Now, we can all get a good night’s sleep, which is a blessing we never take for granted.

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.” Psalm 4:8

Sunday, November 4, 2018

New Speech Therapy Method Offers Hope for Autism

For many children with autism, speech therapy provides crucial training to help them develop language skills. A recently published research article describes a new form of speech therapy that offers promising results to children with autism whose speech skills are limited. The article, “Behavioral predictors of improved speech output in minimally verbal children with autism,” published in the October 2018 issue of Autism Research and available online through the Wiley Online Library, describes the AMMT method and suggests which children are most likely to benefit from this form of speech therapy. [To read this article, please click here.]

The researchers, affiliated with Boston University, Harvard Medical School, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, all located in Boston, Massachusetts, looked for factors that would predict improvement in spoken language for minimally verbal children with autism. Their study included 38 minimally verbal children with autism ranging from ages three years and five months to ten years and eight months.

The children received one of two forms of speech therapy and participated in a minimum of twenty-five sessions that met five days a week for forty-five minutes each time. Most of the children engaged in auditory-motor mapping training (AMMT), “a novel therapy that uses intonation (singing) and rhythmic hand tapping.” The researchers further describe AMMT as “one of a small number of music-based treatments that have recently begun to be used effectively for teaching language and social skills to children with ASD” [autism spectrum disorders]. The other children in the study—the control group— engaged in speech repetition therapy (SRT), which involves no singing or tapping, only saying words aloud.

During these sessions of speech therapy, the children were given thirty familiar two syllable words to say aloud, such as “mommy,” “cookie,” and “bye-bye.” The children in the SRT group simply repeated these words with the speech therapist. However, the children in the AMMT group would sing the words while using two hands to tap on drums at the same time. This method not only combines using auditory and motor skills but also holds the attention of the children during the therapy sessions. The researchers discovered that the children who participated in the AMMT therapy improved their speech production more than those who received SRT therapy.

In addition, the researchers studied which factors were most closely linked to speech improvement, such as age, gender, severity of autism, nonverbal IQ, expressive language skills, and phonetic inventory (the number of speech sounds children can repeat correctly). In some children, the severity of autism influenced the amount of progress made in therapy. However, phonetic inventory was the strongest predictor of how much the children would improve. Researchers were surprised to discover that nonverbal IQ, expressive language, and age did not predict the level of improvement.

In fact, they noted that the older children may have better attention spans during therapy sessions that enabled them to make progress. While the value of speech therapy for older minimally verbal children with autism is sometimes questioned, the researchers note that their observations suggest some older children with autism can benefit from speech therapy.

Although the researchers admit that working with minimally verbal children can be difficult, they also stress the value of effective treatment. Approximately 25% of children with autism are considered minimally verbal. Developing language skills tends to reduce behavioral issues and improve long-term outcomes for these children. As the researchers stress, there is a “great need for these children to acquire even a few words.”

While the researchers affirm the need for further study in the area of speech therapy for minimally verbal children with autism, their study offers hope. First, the AMMT method appears to develop speech skills successfully by combining speech with singing and tapping. Moreover, their results indicate that even older children can develop their speech skills through proper therapy. Certainly, helping children with autism learn to speak is a noble cause, allowing them to communicate their wants and needs, to express their thoughts and feelings, and to interact with others so that they can lead fulfilling lives.

“He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what He has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Protecting Babies from Autism

While the birth of a baby is certainly cause for celebration, as an autism mom, I find myself unsure of how much information I should share with new parents, hoping that their child will not struggle with autism, as mine has. Do I simply pray that their child will be blessed with health and spared from autism, or do I offer wisdom gained from our experience? Will they see my suggestions as helpful hints or nosy intrusions? If I remain silent about what I would have done differently, had I known when Alex was a baby, will I regret not being more assertive later? Can I spare another child from the difficulties my child has needlessly had to face? While autism still remains a mystery in many regards, research in recent years offers parents ways that may prevent their children from acquiring this condition.

In the article “Editorial: What Can Be Done to Prevent Autism Now?” published on the Autism Research Institute website, registered nurse Maureen McDonnell offers numerous suggestions to enhance the health of babies. [To read this article, please click here.] In addition to detailing ways mothers can improve their own health before and during pregnancy, she provides specific ways to help keep newborns and infants healthy. As she notes, “We don’t have all the answers. No one does. But let us consider the research that has already been done, the stories of improvement and recovery from parents who have traveled this difficult path, and let’s apply common-sense precautionary principles as we prepare for and enter motherhood. None of them can harm you or your baby.”

On the topic of vaccines, she advises parents to ask doctors to give only one vaccine at a time from single-dose vials instead of the more common practice of administering multiple vaccines from multiple-dose vials. In addition, she recommends that children who are ill—whether coming down with something, currently sick, or getting over an illness—should not receive vaccines. Moreover, children who are currently on antibiotics or have recently finished antibiotics should not be immunized. Essentially, vaccines should never be given to children who are sick or recovering from illness.

Furthermore, some children have ongoing health conditions or have inherited genetic predispositions that put them at risk for not responding well to vaccines, especially when multiple vaccines are given at once. Children whose parents have autoimmune conditions or allergies may have inherited these traits, putting them at risk for vaccine injury. Also, children who were born prematurely or who have ear infections repeatedly may have immune issues that make them vulnerable to vaccine damage. Consequently, if parents decide to have their babies immunized, they must determine potential risk factors, such as family health history as well as the child’s health history, before allowing their children to receive vaccines.

Another way to protect children is to avoid giving the commonly used pain reliever and fever reducer acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol), especially in conjunction with vaccines. While pediatricians often recommend giving acetaminophen to reduce pain and fever associated with vaccines, ibuprofen (brand name Motrin) is less likely to cause potentially harmful side effects.

In the article “Evidence That Increased Acetaminophen Use in Genetically Vulnerable Children Appears to be a Major Cause of the Epidemics of Autism, Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity, and Asthma” published on The Great Plains Laboratory, Inc. website, Dr. William Shaw explains in great detail how acetaminophen can damage the lungs, liver, and nervous systems of some children. [To read this article, please click here.] For his research, he notes that prior to the 1980’s, children were typically given aspirin for pain and fever. However, the appearance of Reye’s syndrome and Kawasaki disease in children and the potential link with aspirin made the use of acetaminophen rise dramatically. At the same time, rates of autism, asthma, and ADHD also increased significantly. However, countries, such as Cuba, where acetaminophen is rarely given, did not see epidemic growth in the number of children with these three conditions.

Through his research, Dr. Shaw discovered that acetaminophen produces toxins that can lead to “cellular damage and death,” “causes severe immune abnormalities,” and “depresses the immune response to vaccination.” Although he notes that more research needs to be done, he advises avoiding potential risks of toxicity by not giving children acetaminophen, especially in conjunction with vaccinations.

In addition to considering the risks of vaccines and acetaminophen, parents need to realize that they are their children’s primary advocates. In dealing with medical issues, parents may need to do their own research, which has been made much easier, thanks to the abundance of credible online resources. Additionally, parents must find doctors for their children who will listen to their concerns and not dismiss them as nervous parents. Parents should not allow themselves to be bullied by doctors, especially those who threaten to kick patients out of their medical practice for not following stringent vaccination schedules and policies. Trust in a doctor is good; blind faith is not.

A few days ago, my niece gave birth to her first child, my first great nephew. As we were chatting back and forth early one morning online, I debated whether I should warn her about potential dangers of autism. However, I would rather give advice now about potentially preventing autism than advice later about dealing with autism. Moreover, I knew she would understand my motives were only to protect her and her son. I typed, “One bit of advice: give him Motrin (ibuprofen) instead of Tylenol if he ever needs it for fever, especially after shots. Doctors won’t tell you, but there is a link between autism and Tylenol. I know why.” Her immediate response was a thank you along with a heart emoji. She understood. Now I will pray that God will watch over and keep her precious son healthy as He restores health to my precious son.

“We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about His power and His mighty wonders.” Psalm 78:4

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Toxic Metals as Potential Autism Triggers

While scientists have not yet named a definitive cause of autism, a recently published article suggests toxic metals may be to blame. On the Medical XPress website, the article “Toxic metal pollution linked with development of autism spectrum disorder” summarizes a research article, “Toxic metal(loid)-based pollutants and their possible role in autism spectrum disorder,” published in the October 2018 issue of Environmental Research. [To read the summary article, please click here.]

Based on the belief that inflammation of nerve tissue in the brain causes autism, researchers from Russia, Norway, Bangladesh, Japan, France, Egypt, and Italy investigated the role of toxic metals in this inflammatory process. Under the direction of Professor Anatoly Skalny of RUDN University and Yaroslval State University in Russia, the researchers found evidence of neuroinflammation in the brains as well as toxins in the blood of children with autism.

The researchers determined that three toxic metals—aluminum, lead, and mercury—and one toxic metalloid, arsenic, might potentially cause autism. For example, aluminum impairs the function of glia, the cells that surround and support neurons, or nerve cells. In addition, arsenic interferes with neurotransmitters, the chemical substances that transfer nerve impulses to other nerves, muscles, and organs. The damage these common environmental pollutants can inflict explains neurological symptoms found in autism.

Specifically, the researchers noted three effects toxic metals can have upon the nervous system that may lead to a child developing autism. First, these toxins can trigger neuroinflammation commonly seen in autism in which tissues in the nervous system, particularly the brain, are inflamed. Also, these toxic metals can cause apoptosis, or programmed cell death. In addition, heavy metals can activate excitotoxicity, in which overstimulation of neurotransmitters can lead to damage or destruction of nerve cells.

If, indeed, children with autism are found to have heavy metal poisoning, the researchers do not recommend the typical treatment to eradicate these toxins. People with acute heavy metal toxicity, such as those with occupational exposure to these toxins, are typically treated with chelation therapy using sulfur-based compounds that bind with the heavy metals to remove them from the body. However, these oral chelators, including DMPS and DMSA, can have negative side effects. Moreover, children with autism are considered to have chronic metal toxicity and may need ongoing treatment to remove the heavy metals from their systems.

Consequently, the researchers advocate a nutritional approach that is both safe and effective. First, they recommend taking supplements of the minerals zinc and selenium, which can chelate heavy metals by binding with them and removing them from the body. Moreover, they suggest taking antioxidant supplements, such as Vitamin C and E, to protect cells from damage by these toxins.

Along with nutritional supplements, the researchers tout the value of a healthy diet to combat the effects of heavy metals. For instance, they promote eating foods that contain phytochemicals, such as flavanoids, which offer protective health benefits. These plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, beans, herbs, spices, nuts, and seeds, provide three key benefits: antioxidant action, immune system stimulation, and inflammation reduction.

In addition to including food with phytochemicals, the researchers also recommend a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods. An article on the online site Harvard Health Publishing at Harvard Medical School, “Foods that fight inflammation,” not only lists these healthy foods but also explains the benefits. [To read this article, please click here.] Included among anti-inflammatory foods are tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, olive oil, nuts, fatty fish, and fruits, such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges.

The research regarding the link between toxic metals and autism holds special interest for me because Alex was diagnosed with toxic levels of all four of the heavy metals named in the article: aluminum, lead, mercury, and arsenic. In fact, his doctor told us that he had the highest levels of arsenic she had ever seen. At that time, chelation with oral DMSA was the recommended treatment, and fortunately, Alex did quite well with this therapy. Although the careful and intermittent dosing of DMSA meant two years of chelation therapy, the sulfur-based compound removed these toxins from his system. Moreover, when we tested him ten years later to see if any of the toxins had returned, thankfully, the results indicated that he did not have any heavy metals in his system. Perhaps the nutritional supplements he takes, along with the healthy diet he eats, have protected him from heavy metals accumulating in his system again.

While this research linking heavy metal toxicity to autism is certainly a step in the right direction, scientists need to examine why children with autism cannot properly detoxify environmental pollutants. This research also highlights the need for parents to have their children with autism tested for heavy metal toxicity, which can easily and rather inexpensively be done through blood, hair, urine, or stool testing. For those who have aluminum, lead, mercury, and/or arsenic poisoning, the recommendations provided by the researchers—nutritional supplements and diet—offer simple and safe ways to eradicate toxins as well as to overcome the negative effects of the toxins upon the nervous system. Clearly, healing the nervous system in children with autism is crucial to their health, development, and well-being.

“Stretch out Your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” Acts 4:30

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Peaceful Plateau

Lately, we’ve found ourselves in one of those phases for which we’ve prayed fervently: the peaceful plateau, where life is rolling along blissfully and smoothly. Times like this occasionally make me wonder whether we should try something new to push toward more progress. However, most of the time, we think of this phase of relative ease as a Jenga tower in which we don’t want to make any sudden moves that might topple a potentially precarious stack of blocks.

During these times when Alex is healthy and content, Ed and I compare notes in hushed tones, somehow fearful that saying aloud how well Alex is doing might disturb the delicate balance. We add to our superstition by adding the comment, “Knock on wood!” as we both seek a table or chair to rap our knuckles upon, hoping to ensure our good luck will continue.

Certainly, we have reason to be leery. For a year, Alex took antifungal medication to battle an unusually virulent case of thrush that invaded his mouth and throat and did not want to leave. When he finished taking Diflucan in June, we hoped and prayed that the thrush had been eradicated, but we continued to look for the symptoms: tiny blisters on the inside of his lower lip, a white coating on his tongue, and difficulty swallowing his morning pills. Thankfully, Alex has remained thrush-free for the past few months, and we have breathed a sigh of relief that he has been healthy. Knock on wood.

Although we have been working for over a year with Alex’s psychiatric nurse practitioner to reduce the medications he takes for anxiety, every time we reduce or remove a medication, we worry about how he will respond. Since August, two of his medication doses have been cut in half, and he has done remarkably well. Fortunately, with each medication reduction, we have seen Alex respond favorably, improving instead of regressing. Knock on wood.

After over a year of dealing with Alex’s food aversion that changed him from a hearty and healthy eater to a reluctant and picky eater, we enlisted the help of a speech therapist this summer. In just a few sessions, he made great gains and expanded his diet to include a wider variety, rediscovering the foods he formerly enjoyed. While we were delighted with his progress, we were a bit apprehensive when his speech therapist told us that Alex had made a breakthrough and no longer needed her help. However, he continues to look forward to mealtime and makes suggestions about what he’d like to eat. He’s even been able to eat at restaurants, despite all the sensory issues of sound, smell, and taste, while showing no anxiety about food. Knock on wood.

As part of behavioral therapy, his therapist has worked on Alex’s social and language skills by teaching him how to say hello and goodbye to people. One would think this would be a simple task, but autism makes this interaction difficult for him. To reinforce these skills, Ed and I often cue Alex to remind him to exchange these social niceties when he’s out in public. Sometimes, we directly tell him, “Say hello,” or we physically nudge him to speak to others because he doesn’t usually initiate greetings on his own. The other evening when we went grocery shopping, the gentleman who often greets us at the door was treated to an enthusiastic, “Hello!” from Alex. Ed and I exchanged surprised looks, wondering if the other had cued Alex, but he had done it on his own. To prove it wasn’t a fluke, he said, “Goodbye!” to the same gentleman as we were leaving. Maybe Alex is finally catching on to the social skills we’ve worked so hard to teach him. Knock on wood.

Since Alex’s quarterly meeting with his support team is coming up this week, I have been thinking about how to summarize the past three months, something we routinely do at every meeting. He’s healthy, sleeping and eating well, and willing to go places and interact with others. More importantly, he just seems content. We catch him skipping through the house, grinning in the back seat as he rides in the car, and generally amused as he observes life. In short, he’s happy and healthy. Knock on wood.

When we’re in the midst of difficulty, I find myself searching for God’s goodness and praying earnestly for progress. However, when things are going well, I vacillate between enjoying the comfort of ease and fretting when the next proverbial shoe might drop. However, we know that faith is greater than any silly superstition. Moreover, we know that God is in control, and we are truly thankful for His goodness in our lives. He has been with us every step of this journey and has plans for Alex’s life that are greater than we can imagine.

Alex is healthy. Praise God.

Alex is getting off medications. Praise God.

Alex is eating better. Praise God.

Alex is getting out and interacting with people. Praise God.

Alex is happy. Praise God.

Life is good. God is good. Praise God, indeed!

“Come let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt His name together.” Psalm 34:3

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Book Review: Aching Joy

What do we do when life doesn’t turn out the way we expected, planned, or hoped? As Christians, how do we follow the Apostle Paul’s advice to “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and be constant in prayer” when our prayers seem to go unanswered? Writer, pastor, and autism dad Jason Hague skillfully addresses these questions in his recently released book, Aching Joy. [The author and Tyndall House Publishers, Inc. provided me with an advance reader copy; the book is now available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.]

After his son Jack was diagnosed with severe autism, Jason Hague thought he had two options: to live with constant sorrow or to lower his expectations of what the future may hold. With neither choice offering a satisfying life, he instead embraces the path of “aching joy,” where “treasures hidden in the darkness” can be found.

For those who are in despair and frustrated with God, the author offers reassurance: it’s okay to be angry with God. Citing Biblical examples of men of faith who felt abandoned by God—David, Job, Jeremiah, and even Jesus—the author advocates being honest with God about our feelings. In fact, he notes, “Honesty with God is the beginning of healing.” Later, he goes on to explain that as children of God, we are allowed to admit hurt, feel fear, confront God, cry, and accept a situation that is less than ideal. However, he also cautions, “But as a child of God and a follower of Jesus, you are forbidden one thing: You are not allowed to give up hope.”

In a conscious effort to seek joy, Jason Hague began focusing upon developing his relationship with his son Jack and trying to understand his behaviors, such as flapping his arms. He tells a humorous anecdote regarding Jack’s “living-room shrine to Bush’s Baked Beans,” a pyramid of various types of cans Jack had carefully constructed and selected as a reward at the grocery store. What made this unusual interest more curious, the author explains, “He never opened any of those cans. He doesn’t even like beans.” Even though his family did not know why Jack thought these cans were so fascinating, they found his interest amusing and tried to figure out their appeal.

Since progress in autism is often slow, waiting for major breakthroughs can prove frustrating and tiring. Instead, the author suggests taking a break from waiting for a miracle and seeking “smaller graces day by day.” He explains, “God works in big ways and small ways. We must learn to see and receive his subtler miracles—his daily blessings—because that is where he does most of his best work.” Moreover, the author notes that seeking these smaller graces offers rewards: “When we actively look for his [God’s] hand in our circumstances, a funny thing happens. We start to see it.”

Along with trying to understand his son’s behaviors, help him learn to communicate, and develop a relationship with him, Jason Hague candidly describes one of the most difficult aspects of parenting a child with autism—dealing with meltdowns. Explaining how something seemingly small would upset his son profoundly, even to the point of Jack punching himself and banging his head against a wall, Jason Hague earnestly shares how helpless he felt during this “sheer, panicked agony.” He notes, “If we knew what was causing the meltdowns, we could have dealt with them. But he couldn’t tell us.”

Not knowing what specifically triggered the meltdowns, Jack’s parents desperately tried to comfort their son, holding his arms for safety while reassuring him of their love and reminding him that he was not alone. From that experience, the author draws the parallel of God as the father who promises in Scriptures to be with us always to give comfort and strength. As Jason Hague wisely notes, “‘I am with you’ means we never have to walk alone. That is reason enough for joy.”

Another aspect of life with autism that can cause grief, the author explains, is the tendency to compare our lives with others. Seeing typical family photos on social media or hearing about other children’s accomplishments can cause us to feel resentment and envy. Instead, the author urges us to celebrate others’ achievements while waiting for our prayers to be answered because they are evidence of “the goodness of God in the land of the living.” Moreover, he emphasizes the value of testimonies: “The stories of hope, big or small, from our neighbors or from our own histories, are evidence of the hand of God. Without them, we might despair.”

Nonetheless, human nature tends to look for fairness in life, and we may lament that it’s not fair for our children to suffer from autism. However, Jason Hague points out that we also need to look for the gifts our children have been given, recognizing that they may have been compensated in special ways. Specifically, he describes his son’s kindness, patience, and willingness to forgive others. Additionally, the author notes, “Despite the paralyzing effects of his condition, he finds more delight in the simple things of this world than anyone I have ever met.” Indeed, Jack’s ability to find joy in small things offers a testimony that out of suffering can come unabashed delight others can share.

In Aching Joy, Jason Hague openly shares his thoughts and feelings about the frustrations and joys in raising a child with autism. After struggling with uncertainty, he offers the wisdom he has gained from his experiences so that others may know that they, too, are not alone as they wait on the Lord. Moreover, this heartfelt memoir and testimony of faith reminds readers to seek God’s comfort: “Courage and healing are in his hands, and he waits for you to call.”

“The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust Him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” Psalm 28:7

Sunday, September 30, 2018

"In Thy Light"

“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”~“Thy Word” by Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith

Last week, a sudden storm knocked out the electricity to our home briefly, sending the three of us into darkness. Although Alex tends to be unnerved by thunderstorms, he has learned over the years that we will quickly assemble flashlights and candles so that he can see. After a recent power outage that lasted hours, we bought him a pair of “Super Bright Switches”: battery-operated LED lights that look like light switches and give off bright light, as advertised and recommended by my mom. As soon as the power flickered, I took a flashlight and ran and got his Super Bright Switch so that he could carry around light easily and feel secure. Alex seemed content to have the ability to flip a switch to gain light quickly, and fortunately, the electricity came back on shortly afterward.

In dealing with autism, we often find ourselves stumbling in the darkness, searching for a light that can easily be turned on with the flick of a switch. After dealing with Alex’s sudden and uncharacteristic food aversion for over a year, we found the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” when we began working with a speech therapist last month. Although I thought helping him overcome his issues with the tastes, textures, and temperatures of food would take months, his speech therapist felt confident Alex could conquer his anxiety about eating more quickly. She was right.

In our session last week, she declared that Alex had graduated from therapy with her and would no longer need speech therapy for food aversion. After only five sessions in less than two months, she had taught Alex how to enjoy food again. In that last session, he was able to tell her that he had tried more than a dozen varied foods in the two weeks since he had last seen her, and he liked almost all of them. Suddenly, he was suggesting foods he’d like to eat, something that we had not seen in more than a year. Another sign of a breakthrough was his telling us that he was hungry––a sharp contrast to his more recent behavior of protesting that he didn’t want to eat because he was already full.

Although we were delighted that Alex made such rapid progress in overcoming a problem that had plagued him for several months, we were also a bit sad to say goodbye to his therapist. However, she assured us that if Alex ever needs her, she will always be happy to help. In the brief time we worked with her, she had endeared herself to us through her patience, kindness, and enthusiasm. Most of all, she genuinely cared about Alex and celebrated each step of progress with us. When we couldn’t find a way, she enlightened us.

On Friday evening, we took Alex to see a Homecoming celebration fireworks display at Valparaiso University, where Ed teaches and I received my college degrees. Even though fireworks should cause sensory overload for Alex with the loud noises and flashing lights, going to the Homecoming fireworks is an annual event he eagerly anticipates. This year was no exception. Moreover, these fireworks seemed to be an appropriate way to celebrate all the progress Alex has made recently.

As the three of us watched the exploding multicolored lights in the sky, I thought of the motto of my alma mater: “In Luce Tua Videmus Lucem/In Thy Light We See Light.” Despite all the times we have trouble seeing the path for Alex, God has illuminated His purpose and shown us the way. Not only has He helped us find strategies and methods to help Alex, but He has also led us to other people whose expertise and support we needed to make Alex better. When we were in the dark, God provided the light so that we could see and have hope for the future.

While I thanked God for the progress Alex has made in overcoming his fear of storms and regaining his appetite and being willing to go places so that he can enjoy life, Alex was just mesmerized by the fireworks. With a smile on his face, he counted the flashes in the sky and proclaimed that he liked the fireworks “one hundred percent.” While his faith may be less analytic than mine, Alex’s faith is purer than mine. He trusts God implicitly, knowing that just beyond the darkness, the light will always shine brightly.

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6