Sunday, December 27, 2015


In the family photograph taken a few days ago on Christmas night, Alex is easy to spot. Among the two grandparents, three siblings and their three spouses, five cousins, two nieces’ boyfriends, and a little dog, only Alex and the dog are not looking at the camera. With Ed’s hand on Alex’s shoulder, my right arm around his waist and my left hand holding his left arm, we make certain that he doesn’t suddenly leave the group before the camera timer goes off and snaps the picture with him walking away. Although it would be nice if he were focused and smiling and free of Ed’s and my grasp, we are pleased he is there. Last year was the first time in many years that the three of us could join the rest of the family for a Christmas celebration, and despite all the confusion that fifteen people and a dog can bring, Alex remained calm and pleasant the entire evening. This is a gift.

On Monday, we took Alex to a new family doctor for a regular check-up. In the past few years, we have taken him to various family doctors because some have taken other jobs out of town and others have refused to take our health insurance. Each time we start with a new doctor, I have to recite Alex’s medical history, explaining how various aspects of autism, including gluten and casein sensitivities, candida overgrowth, and heavy metal poisoning, have affected his health. We liked the new doctor’s manner and his interaction with Alex, who was amazingly patient (and an amazing patient) as the doctor carefully assessed his medical history and recent blood test results and then thoroughly examined him.

Pleased with how well this first appointment had gone and what a positive first impression Alex had made, we were content to leave once we had asked and answered questions. However, the doctor turned to Alex and asked if he had any questions. Because Alex usually relies upon us as his legal health care representatives to communicate for him, we were surprised to hear him speak up and ask how long it would take for his toenail to heal. Taking Alex seriously, the doctor had him take off his shoe and sock, carefully examined the toe, and told him about three months, which satisfied Alex. Not only had Alex sat through the entire appointment without becoming anxious about how long it was taking, but he had also become an active participant in the process. This is a gift.

Later that afternoon, he also had a regular six-month appointment with his psychiatric nurse practitioner who oversees his medications for anxiety. Since she has taken care of him for nearly four years, we feel comfortable with her and expected a routine appointment because we knew his blood tests had all shown normal results. However, we didn’t anticipate having to sit in a crowded waiting room for nearly an hour. Wondering whether Alex had used up all his patience during the morning appointment, Ed and I tried to keep him entertained with a book we had brought about—of all things––time. While the two of us became more annoyed about having to wait, Alex remained remarkably calm. This is a gift.

After we were finally ushered from the waiting room to her office, Alex once again showed the progress he has made by answering all of her questions and relying less upon us to speak for him. Despite computer problems that meant she had to write all of his prescriptions by hand instead of the much faster electronic method, Alex sat patiently. When it was time to leave, we thanked her, and Alex walked toward her. Thinking that he just wanted to see what was on her computer screen, Ed and I were pleasantly surprised that he offered his hand to her for a handshake (As usual, he mistakenly extended his left hand instead of his right hand, but still this is progress in his social skills!) and politely said goodbye. This is a gift.

On Christmas Eve, Alex indicated that he wanted to go to church, as we had last year for the first time in many years, mainly because his cousin was singing in the choir. Like last year, we were pleased that he sat quietly yet seemed to enjoy listening to the choirs sing as well as watching children on the stage listening to the Christmas story. This year, as he smiled and swayed to the familiar carols, he also watched the lyrics projected on the screen at the front of the church. And then, he began to sing along. This is a gift.

On Christmas night, as we prepared to leave the family gathering, Alex hugged my parents with his typical loose arms and with his head leaned toward the other person’s shoulder, and then he purposefully headed toward the fireplace. Because Ed and I are always on guard, we followed on his heels, making sure that he wasn’t going to harm any fragile decorations that may have caught his eye. Then he leaned down and gently patted the head of my brother’s little dog who was resting there. Alex, who never pays much attention to animals, apparently wanted to say goodbye to the dog, the only other one in the family photo not looking at the camera. We thought he was oblivious to her presence, especially since she was lying in the corner of the room, but he had noticed her and wanted to show affection to her before leaving. This is a gift.

In the day-to-day busyness of life, especially life with autism, we may not always notice the little things. Yet, this week Alex revealed that he continues to make progress, and God revealed that He is continuing to heal Alex. How thankful we are for these precious gifts!

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9


Bright Side of Life said...

What wonderful gifts to receive. A lovely post to read, thank you for sharing.

Pam Byrne said...

Great to hear from you! Thanks so much for your nice comments, and I hope you and your family are doing well.