Ashley came into the world on February 14, 2000.
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. The first two years Ashley was an exuberant, happy baby that had the world at her feet. She easily achieved all her milestones, early. We were filled with endless hopes and dreams for her, believing she could accomplish anything. Then one day she suddenly changed. Her light went out and my baby disappeared inside herself, along with all those hopes and dreams. At first we had excuses - she isn't feeling well, our recent move, Grandpa dying, new baby sister were too stressful. But it soon became apparent that we had a serious problem. The first time I applied the term autism to Ashley I was standing alone in a bookstore, holding a book on speech delays, reading this list of autistic symptoms. As a teacher, I had heard of autism, but had always thought of the completely withdrawn child rocking in a corner - that was not Ashley. But this list of symptoms almost all applied - loss of speech, no eye contact, etc. It would take another two years of ups and downs for us to realize the severity of the problem and get the official "severely autistic label". Then another two to three years of believing I could fix my daughter with diets, vitamins, therapies - you name it we tried it - looking for that one miracle that would bring my daughter back.
The problem was I believed I could fix my child. I believed that if I worked hard enough that I would find the one component that would cure her. I felt like I was standing in a field of flowers and if I picked the right one; autism would disappear and if I picked the wrong one(s); we would remain in this abyss. I got so focused on the treatments; I lost sight of my child. Then one day I realized I was putting my faith in myself, diets, programs, vitamins, etc., instead of God. The Bible tells me Ashley has a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11), all things are possible with God (Matt 19:26), God is love (1John 4:8). It was then I realized I needed to focus my energy on God and Ashley and the rest would come. I'm not saying those treatments are wrong or invalid. Obviously many families have had miraculous results using these methods. But for me, my heart was in the wrong place and I was going against my faith by elevating them above God and going into debt to use them. I learned to love God and Ashley and to let go of my plans, so I can follow his plans for our life.
Today, Ashley still has autism and our other children also have some special needs. We are an average family living on a tight one-income budget. My job is to educate and advocate for my children. We use all different methods to work with them. We love our children and our life and we trust God. We let go of our old hopes and dreams - but God has replaced those with new ones. Ashley is still that same baby with all that potential - God's plan for her is just different than I anticipated.