Bethany loved being a mommy. Her first son was perfect in every way. He was smart, well-behaved and brilliant! She and John decided they wanted to have another child. This time it wasn’t as easy. After four years of infertility, two rounds of IVF and fertility drugs, Bethany finally became pregnant. She gave birth to another healthy, adorable baby boy. Although her relationship with John was strained, Bethany was happy. Motherhood gave her joy and a purpose in life. Fast forward two years later, baby boy #3 arrives. We’ll call him Johnny.
Bethany knew something was different about Johnny from the beginning. He was not a content baby like her older boys. He cried, or, more like screamed, A LOT. A lot, as in ALL.THE.TIME. Bethany, afraid something was really wrong, took him to the doctor frequently. They switched his formula several times. Nothing worked. He always seemed gassy and in pain. Bethany hadn’t slept a full night since he was born. Finally, at 14 months, she took matters into her own hands and figured out he had a dairy allergy. She removed all dairy from his diet and he seemed a little better. He finally began to sleep at night! What a relief!
Johnny was a VERY active toddler. Bethany could never take her eyes off of him, even for a second. Extremely busy and hyperactive, he was the most difficult child in the family.
“If I’d had him first, I wouldn’t have had any more kids.”
When Johnny was a toddler, Bethany began taking her kids to church. She wanted her children to know about Jesus like she did. A couple of people asked her if she ever had Johnny checked for ADD and behavioral issues.
“I would just get mad. I never thought it was anything serious. I just thought he was a very active boy.”
Bethany stopped taking her boys to that church when little Johnny went missing. No one could find him anywhere. Bethany had taken her eyes off of him for one second and he disappeared. They finally found him, but Bethany decided she had enough. It was several years before she took them to church again.
When Johnny was just a toddler, Bethany made major life changes for her family. She had been studying about the benefits of eating organically and living a natural lifestyle. Changing the eating habits of her family seemed to help Johnny’s behavior. She cut out all preservatives and food dyes, as well as anything genetically modified or synthetically produced.
Johnny started preschool. Bethany says, “He was really bad there.” But the teachers assured him he was just immature and would be okay in kindergarten.
“In the back of mind, I knew there was something different about him. I kept telling myself that he was just an active boy.”
But she admits, there were signs… for instance:
He was obsessed with Transformers. He would line them up neatly, obsessively.
He was obsessed with cars and blocks, incessantly lining them up and stacking them.
Bethany recalls one time when she was “helping” him stack his colored blocks. He freaked out when she stacked the wrong color in the wrong order. He started screaming, became furious and threw the block across the room. She recognized this behavior as sure signs of OCD.
“I always asked the preschool teachers if they thought he was okay. They reassured me that he was fine and was ready for kindergarten.”
Johnny was an extremely affectionate little boy. He loved to give and get hugs and sit on grownups laps, etc. A sure sign that he liked someone was if he wanted to sit right up next to you and hold your hand. When he started kindergarten, he had a wonderful teacher who would allow him to hug her each day. This was helpful, but he didn’t do well with the instruction given in class. He needed to repeat kindergarten. Unfortunately, the school refused to give him the same teacher for his second year of kindergarten. This was when the real problems began for Johnny.
The new teacher’s exact words were, “We just don’t get along.” It was blatantly obvious that she just didn’t like Johnny. She insisted he get an aide to sit with him in class. All the testing had to be done in order for this to happen. His teacher was so sure he had a learning disability. Much to her surprise, he did not. The issue was behavioral.
“I had to sit in these meetings by myself and they were so mean to me.”
In order for him to get the aide in the classroom and further help, Bethany had to take him to a doctor to get an official diagnosis. After a 15 minute appointment, Bethany walked out with a diagnosis for her baby boy.
Asperger’s and ADHD.
“Every day I dropped him off at school, I cried thinking about leaving my baby there.”
One day at school, something unbelievable happened to Johnny. Remember how Johnny liked to give hugs? Well, his principal had a problem with that. She thought it was weird and decided to do something to “help” him with it. She put a weighted jacket on Johnny, saying that she thought the compression of the jacket would help him since he wanted hugs all the time. She said she didn’t want the other kids to think he was weird (wanting to give hugs), yet she put this jacket on him in front of everyone. First of all, these types of jackets are only designed for the most severe cases AND are only allowed to be used by law with the signed permission of the parents. When Johnny came home and told Bethany what happened, she was out-of-her-mind enraged. He told her, “Mommy, I’m such a loser.” My heart breaks for Johnny! I can only imagine what Bethany was feeling!!!
Bethany pulled Johnny out of the public school system the next day and has never taken him back. In the Christian school, he received everything he needed socially and got the love and attention he craved. Paying for private school was a financial strain for the family, but it was worth it. Johnny was able to feel the love of Jesus there. He was able to express his love for Jesus and others openly, without fear of being punished or ridiculed.
“Whenever he was having a bad day, they never focused on him being the problem. They never made him feel like he was a bad person.”
Johnny’s personal relationship with Jesus grew while he attended Christian school. Teachers would comment to Bethany that during Chapel, they could see the presence of God all over Johnny. His worship to God was so open and innocent. At night, Bethany would catch him staring out his window, blinds wide open, head stacked high on all his pillows, talking to Jesus. People with Asperger’s are usually very affectionate and sensitive, making it easy to connect with God. This is the case with Johnny.
As time has gone on, Johnny has grown in many ways. Before, he could not make friends. He was unable to make a connection with his peers. Now, at 11 years old, he has three very close friends. That’s a huge accomplishment!
Recently at a church service, Bethany observed her baby boy during worship. He was on his knees, hands raised, praying in tongues, unashamed. When it comes to his time with Jesus, he doesn’t care who is around!
About 3 years ago, Bethany further modified Johnny’s diet, cutting out all gluten. The difference in his behavior is like night and day. Literally, over night, he became a different child once the gluten was out of his system. Now, if he eats anything containing gluten, he gets a migraine and becomes violently ill. He also can’t control his anger after he’s eaten gluten. It really is remarkable what impact gluten can have on a person!
Bethany is now homeschooling Johnny. Christian school was great for him socially, but he still struggled academically. Not wanting him to get too far behind, she decided to take his education into her own hands. His reading is improving, as is his spelling skills. He has an awesome imagination and writes fantastic stories. His memory is unbelievable and he excels in math. He has straight As!
Johnny’s teachers at church have commented recently about his behavior. They told Bethany that they are impressed with Johnny and his level of maturity he has been demonstrating lately. Hearing these things about her baby boy is so good for Bethany’s heart! After years of hearing how terrible he is, what a relief!
Not that Johnny is perfect, of course, no child is. He still struggles with certain impulsive behaviors like stealing. He just can’t help himself. He takes candy and gum from his mom’s purse. He is not good at hiding the evidence and always gets caught. He is always remorseful, but this is an area they are still working on.
When Johnny was little, Bethany was always afraid to take him out in public. He was so fast and would run off and get lost. Now, Bethany doesn’t worry about that. Johnny stays right with her. If you saw Johnny in the store with his mom, you would never guess he was different than any other kid.
Has your child received a diagnosis like Johnny? Does the situation seem hopeless? I assure it is not. Your child is not defined by a diagnosis. Your child is special and unique. Embrace the uniqueness as a positive thing! Be encouraged by Bethany and Johnny’s story.
*I would like to add this little note. Bethany has NEVER put Johnny on any type of medication. She has controlled his behavior through diet, natural supplements and changes in his daily routine. If you would like to know more about what she has done or is doing, I can get you in contact with her.
Lastly, here is a passage of Scripture from Psalm 134 to speak over your child. Life and death are in the words we speak to our children!
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!
If you’ve been touched by this story or if you can say, “Me too! Me too!” let your voice also be heard. It matters to the women who are being so brave in sharing their precious lives with you. YOU matter to Bethany. She wants you to find hope and healing through her story. So please, leave a comment or contact me at the email address below. All correspondences are confidential.