There are so many places I can allow myself to dwell lately. Problems with my boys, issues with my health, the heartbreak of recently losing someone dear to me, worry over bills, concern about the future. We can all dwell on any of these things, and so much more.
But today I choose to dwell in victory. When my son, Jem, was 17 months old he had an accident that required a cast on his leg. During the treatment, the doctor was concerned about Jem’s behavior. I had noticed things his whole life – he never met a single milestone, wasn’t walking, wasn’t talking, didn’t adapt to new situations, had extreme fear of strangers, and totally wigged out if someone touched him who wasn’t immediate family. He lived very much inside his own head. Because of these behaviors we were referred to a child neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic. Right off the bat the battery of doctors threw around words like ‘Autism’ and ‘Genetic Defect’. It scared me and I wanted to take my boy and run away and protect him from all of the poking and prodding.
The neurologist ordered test after test after test. Some tests required general anesthesia, which put Jem at great risk, but I wanted to cooperate with the medical professionals to find out what was causing the problems with my boy. Help Me Grow entered our lives and they were amazing. They came to our house for all of the required testing, then found my Jem a place in a special needs school. That was in November, 2010 and Jem was 2 years and 2 months old. He was finally walking, but still not talking. He came home the first day speaking in sign language and I knew these people were going to help my boy!
Fast forward to two weeks ago. I was getting my son dressed and ready for school. As I tied his shoes he said, “I’m gonna ride on my bus!” It was the first time Jem ever initiated a conversation with me! I thought my heart would burst! It was so amazing to finally hear my child speak to me!
Yesterday I went to a meeting at Jem’s school. He’s turning 3 so he had to have lots of testing to find out where he was developmentally. That way the school would know if they needed to advance him into special needs preschool or transition him into a mainstream preschool. I was overjoyed to hear that every single test came back within the 36 month age range! He’s behind in his adaptive skills – how he relates and adapts to strangers and new situations – but the psychologist says that is normal for a child who came out of the abuse that Jem did. He’s not nearly as difficult as he used to be in new situations. Before he would scream until he had no voice or energy. Now he gets very quiet and observes until he’s comfortable. Great strides!
When I left the school yesterday and began the long drive home I realized how incredibly grateful I felt. There have been so many people on this journey to help Jem that have loved him, encouraged him, taught him, and helped him understand that it’s okay to trust other people. I realized, also, that my sweet Jem would still be trapped in a world of silence and frustration if we had still been with his father. The doctors, psychologists, and teachers all believe now that Jem’s stunted development was caused mainly from the abuse in our former dwelling. They also believe that he has blossomed so quickly because of the positive environment he now resides in. I give all the credit to the school. I give all the glory to God.
For now, this is where I dwell…in the overwhelming joy that I did the right thing, trusted the right people, and that my almost-three-year-old is a normal, healthy, happy little man. Jem dwells in a world of safety, security, and love. It’s a victory…the whole journey…and it was worth every tear, every moment of doubt, every sleepless night worrying that my boy would never be ‘normal’, and SO worth the final realization that no matter what was ‘wrong’ with my boy, he was always perfect to me.
Someone I used to know told me, “Where you dwell is where you live.” It’s true that our heart resides wherever out thoughts dwell. So dwell in joy. And if you aren’t sure how to find joy, I know a little almost-three-year-old who can help you find it…