She has been different from my other children from early on. In the back of my mind, I wondered if something was wrong. She didn’t crawl until a year old, and even then it could barely be called a crawl. She took awhile to talk. She jerked her arms when she was frustrated. She reverted back to baby talk when she felt overwhelmed. In large groups, she would rarely leave a trusted adult’s side. She screamed at the slightest offense. She gave me blank stares whenever I tried to explain to her that she had done something wrong. Her responses to questions were often canned or exact copies of siblings. She would crawl up in my lap and rather than talking, she would grunt or bark. Something was different, but I didn’t know what.
We are a tight knit homeschool family. We are at home 98% of the time. We are doing our best to follow Scripture in our family life. We have begun a journey of following Torah, the first five books of the Bible. We believe that Torah is the foundation, and all of Scripture builds on its principles. This journey began when I was pregnant with Sadie. It was a blessing to see Scripture in a new light. We began keeping Shabbat and eating kosher and studying Scripture like we never had before. It was a wonderful time. It was also a very difficult time. Doug was in the hospital for nine days. We were forced to leave our church. I was told by the OBGYN to find care elsewhere because of my VBAC status. Sadie was born safely at home, and our journey as a family continued.
Several weeks ago, as the barking like a dog and grunting and screaming were getting disruptive to our family, I prayed. What is causing this? Is she just acting like a brat? Is it in my head? What am I doing wrong?
That comforting still small voice encouraged me to find out. So I went online and began to search. Within a few moments, I could see my daughter in the description of Asperger’s syndrome. The more I read, the more the pieces began to fit. I talked to my Mom about it. She has some experience in occupational therapy, a career she had pursued before she decided to stay at home. As we discussed various behaviors and crosschecked, it seemed even more clear. But one thing was glaringly obvious. There is no cure, and the medical profession can offer no answers beyond behavioral therapy. Much of the stress on getting a diagnosis is in getting access to this behavioral therapy, and determining exactly which disorder the child has. There are different disorders all within the autism spectrum, as it is called. However, the treatment is pretty much the same for all. We became convinced that we, her family, were the best behavioral therapy she could get.
As I began to fill my mind with all things Asperger, another revelation presented itself. My husband had all the symptoms, too, and more symptoms than Sadie. He grew up in the days before Asperger’s had an official name. He was pegged with learning disabilities, even though he is very smart and went on to become a commercial pilot.
So I find myself in a new world from what I thought I knew. I have a husband and six children. Two of them have struggles. They see the world differently than me. Interacting with people is a challenge to them. Understanding things on an emotional level is very difficult for them. They are easily frustrated. They are stubborn. They can create some nasty storm clouds, but after the storm clouds, they give me the most beautiful rainbows.
I want to support them, to help them. I want Sadie to be able to stand confidently on her own two feet. What can I do? I look at my husband, who has made so many advances in recent years. What helped him?
We began following Torah, and he began to change.
Torah makes sense to him. Torah is logical, black and white. It is not dependent on emotions. Torah teaches us to love, not because of a feeling, but because it is the right thing to do. Love is an action that is deliberately made. Torah illustrates love for us by showing us what to do in various circumstances. If we find something that belongs to someone else, we return it. If we build something, we make it safe for those around us. If someone has a need, we help them.
Torah does not require us to understand infinite unspoken social rules. Yet it gives us a guidebook for social encounters.
Can Torah be taught to my daughter in a way that will help her socially? Can I teach her how to interact with other people confidently by applying principles from Torah? I believe I can.
That is what this blog is all about. This is my journey to help my daughter with only one tool: Torah.