by Ms. Tarng
My childhood was tough. While growing up there was little love and considerable, severe discipline. When I was only six years old my mother came to dislike me. I don't know why. Perhaps she disliked me because there were too many children in the family and I was the middle child. For some reason she was totally indifferent to me. Whatever I did was always wrong and I could never please her. It seemed she just abandoned me and stopped loving me altogether. This sad childhood affected me profoundly. Now, fully grown, I have problems handling emotions. It is difficult and frustrating for me to express my feelings with and to my family and friends.
When I got married I thought I would escape this lonely cocoon and experience the love and concerns of an ordinary family. However, after six years of marriage, I had to begin a journey through another severe personal test. This voyage had to do with my children. And this ordeal would be different for them than it was for me when I was growing up. I swore to myself I would never give up my children and would always treasure them regardless of the situation.
In the deepest part of my heart I have a persevering, gentle and frail side, just like everyone else. I give all my heart to my family. This is partly, no doubt, to compensate for the family love I never had as a child. I treat my family as a priceless treasure. I want them to feel my unconditional love.
After four years of marriage my husband's parents, brothers and sisters moved in with us. My husband encountered many difficulties. I understand the dilemma between his family and his wife and I tried my best to follow the rules of his family.
Then my second son and daughter came into the world and we found both of them have learning disabilities and autism. My husband felt very disappointed. To him the future was bleak. He chose to give up the autistic child. He wanted to escape the torture of the reality of autism. For me his decision to abandon this child, so much in need, was a great shock. Not for an instant did I have such an idea. As a mother how could I possibly give up my children? I absolutely refuse the notion.
Although I cannot accept his decision I can understand my husband's pain. He is an excellent computer engineer with a Master's degree and has many proud achievements. But he cannot accept this problem and cannot believe how such an unfortunate thing as this could have happened to him! For my family and to protect our children I gave up my pride and wrote him a letter to express my heart's desire. I wrote that I wished for those things I need and want so badly but cannot tell him when we talk face to face. After finishing this delicate and difficult letter I read it again, sighed gently, and pressed the "send" key.
Maybe the accumulated pain, anger and mental torture had exceeded my tolerance. In order to make a complete family and to protect my needy child I chose to give up my pride and dignity and to beg my husband to accept an incurable autistic child. To please give a little love and compassion to me and the child. To please not give us more pressure and torture. Although this autistic child cannot talk or learn like a normal child, he can feel, and he needs love from other people. In fact he needs more love than a normal child. And especially from his father.
Many times I suffered from my husband's cruel speech. When that happened the undiminished painful past appeared in front of me againíK
The second son was born with great anticipation of the grandparents. He was treated as a treasure with all the love and care they could give him. As he grew up, he had various problems: not listening, not understanding, temper tantrums, using his head to hit the wall and floor, destroying his brother's cherished items and generally not behaving. My husband and I believed that his behavior was caused by the grandparents spoiling him. We never thought about a learning disability, not mention autism. We had not encountered either before.
In 1992 the boy was evaluated as having learning disability problems and had to take special education. The grandparents did not believe the diagnosis and thought that the school and we were just picky. However, during the first three months at school, the teachers reported that dealing with the boy was like talking to a wall. He had no reaction to anyone or anything and he did not show any improvement.
In 1993, during an IEP meeting, the teachers said they were disappointed in his progress and told me that without the parent's cooperation the boy would never make much improvement. I could only confess that the family did not understand about learning disabilities and would not accept that this is the case with the child. And the grandparents not only did not help teach the boy but actually interfered with me in every step when I tried to teach him.
After understanding the situation at home, a warm-hearted teacher visited our house to explain the boy's situation to my husband. She told him that the boy would have hope only if he could get everyone's help. With this long educational talk my husband finally understood that his son had a big problem and agreed to help the boy.
The grandparents still insisted on taking care of the child. All of my efforts to teach the boy how to study and teach him life skills and behavior corrections encountered continuous interference and resistance from the grandparents. Finally my husband asked the grandparents to stop interfering. The response he got was a scolding from them. My husband and I went through one and a half years of struggle and turmoil with the grandparents before finally getting the "right" to educate the second son. During this period there was a constant battle between the grandparents and us. The grandparents believed that their son was bad because the daughter-in-law was bad. The grandmother even left home for one month. She came back because she missed the grandchildren too much.
Originally we thought there was a good chance we could have a normal boy back if we could educate him properly. We could not imagine that he could never talk or understand anything. Although I used every method I knew to teach him there was very little improvement. He is neither mute nor blind but he could not understand what we wanted him to do. We were, of course, heart broken. I tried and tried and could not figure out a solution on how to make a better life for him. I knew I had to be strong and could not give up. If I gave up, the boy would have no future at all.
Trying to teach him was extremely difficult and frustrating. When I tried to teach him just a single word, I had to try three or four hundred times before he would memorize it. Three days later he would forget everything. As for any kind of story or fairy tale, it was impossible for him to understand it at all. When I learned and understood more about autism, I felt more fear.
In order to learn more about autism I joined a special children's organization in 1996 where I got considerable precious information. I finally realized that there is no cure for autism. It requires suitable educational methods and materials that match the child's mental level in order for an autistic child to learn. And it requires professional speech therapists to teach him to talk. Standard methods of teaching normal children cannot be used to educate autistic children.
When the boy was ten years old, his teacher recommended that I bring him to special classes for skill therapies because he would get a big benefit from such classes. I immediately arranged for art, piano, mental math, play group, play date, swimming, martial arts, speech therapy and Chinese classes. During this stage of the long term stimulation and training sessions, he really showed improvements in learning capabilities and his knowledge base grew.
During that year he learned how to use several words that allowed him to express what he needed. He could answer simple questions and follow several steps of orders given to him. As long as I stayed with him he could do his homework. It was tedious and arduous work and we might not see the fruit of the work today but we could see the results in a month. Even though there was not much improvement, I was very happy for any gains at all. My son's improvements were the source for me to keep plowing.
Unfortunately he entered puberty when he was eleven and half years old. Suddenly all the improvements he had acquired from the skill therapies stopped and he developed a violent tendency. I tried various methods to prevent his violent behavior from hurting his little sister. All was in vain until I used a diet therapy that was recommended by friends. With shots, medicines and diet control his aggressive emotions became temporarily under control.
With the diet therapy and skill therapies continuing on a daily basis, the stress on me was unbelievable. I had to work during the day, do skill therapies at home and keep track of all the medicines and shots. If I missed even one dosage he would stop communicating with the outside world and became violent within two hours of a meal. If I did not make him do skill therapies he would lose all progress in a week.
After years of struggling with the family, the children's problems and work I was both mentally and physically exhausted. But I could not give up. I prayed for God to bestow on me the wisdom, bravery and strength to help my children and show me a way to help my son to become a normal child.
In 2000, during a most difficult time, my husband decided to give up the boy. He realized there was no cure for autism and there was nothing but never-ending work with no hope of a future for the boy. He accused me of neglecting the rest of the family members so I could put my full attention on the boy. His patience had reached the limit. And he requested me to give the boy up too. My answer was that I would never give up my child.
Between 12 and 16 years old the boy's ability in comprehension had stayed at the 5 year old stage. During these four years I could not find or figure out any method to break this bottleneck.
In 2004, during a gathering of a special children's support group, a mother introduced me a new method. It is called the "Brain Enhancement Program" (BEP). She told me of the concept of BEP and shared with me her experience with BEP and her autistic child.
The Brain Enhancement Program (BEP) improves a child's learning capabilities by improving the integrated functions of the brain nerve systems. When I learned of this method I believed that it may be able to help my son. He joined the improvement program of BEP in July, 2004.
Since then my son has not needed diet control, medicines or shots. He can go any place and eat any food with no side effects whatsoever. This is a God send for me. It vastly reduces my stress level.
His violent behavior no longer occurs. He has no temper tantrums and he cares about every member of the family. After two months in the BEP improvement program, the boy showed such considerable improvement that, to me, it was like a drama in a dreamíKthe improvement came very quickly. But actually I had waited for twelve years and sprouted a lot of gray hair before something came along that helped my son. I have absolutely no regrets and my heart is full of gratitude and joy.
Now he can even understand humor, which is a subtle brain activity. Once he saw a boy accidentally go in the girl's restroom. He laughed and told me the story. I always give him compliments and encouragement for his oral description of the day's events.
In this stage his abilities and comprehension had increased substantially which reduced the time and energy I expended to teach him. I did not have to use a repetitive method to teach. His speech was easier to understand and he was less stubborn, probably because he was less frustrated. This situation showed that the boy might have infinite potential.
The change he made is what I never dared to hope was possible. Because he was like a flower bud that starts blooming slowly under the sun I made the decision to switch him from the BEP improvement program to the BEP intensive program. While under the BEP intensive program I felt as if I went through some sort of storm created by his turbulent and tumultuous changes.
My son's social language improved from nothing to the 3 year old stage. His reading comprehension ability improved from the 5 year to 6 the year old level. He is like an over-grown toddler. Sometimes his questions surprise me. When I cross-check his questions and answers I understand the confusion he has. His questions and answers are at the 6 year old level and do not match with his actual 17 year age level.
Nevertheless, he is just a newly awakened child from a long sleep.
He has become very sensitive. He does not like people treating him like a special child any more. So, we have to adjust our language and behavior to treat him as a normal and reasonable child. We need to discuss everything with him because he likes to make his own decisions but his mental age is far below his physical age. How to deal with him becomes my homework.
He has his own thoughts and targets. He told me that he wants to go to college and live independently like his older brother. He tries desperately to break his own learning bottleneck. Under my guidance he studies very hard.
Half a year after the BEP treatment he is able to talk to me about school and daily life with no reminders or hints. We might have arguments but I am happy because he can think and give me reasons. Sometimes the reasons are weird but the point is that he is thinking. I treasure his reasoning because I have been waiting over 10 years for him to talk with reason and logic. I believe that the family would not have had to go through such a difficult path if the BEP treatment had been available several years earlier. But I still thank God for this priceless gift.
His breakthrough did not change much in his father's attitude. But, at least, the explosive atmosphere at home is softening some. Sometimes his father might tease him or make fun of him. Happily the boy can accept his father's actions and have a positive response. The connection between father and son is gradually developing. His father's smile occasionally shows at home. I enjoy that small concession and thank God for all the help. I wish that his father will accept us someday.
Sitting on the sofa I looked at many documents related to his diagnosis, treatment and training since he was very young. I reminiscedíKthese records represent his growth and our struggles. Maybe someday when he becomes a normal adult he can use them as the recollection of his life's path. He will always work hard because each of his steps is so much harder than those of normal people. I want him to succeed and be proud of himself.
Friends, do you think it worth over a decade hardship and sacrifice?
Maybe my son found me as I found him during the life cycles. In some other family he might have slept forever.
I have been accepting life as a very tough test my whole life. And now, because of the success with my son, maybe my life will be better and a little easier.
I love my family, I love my children. I will always protect and support them until the end of my life.