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Don't Give Up: Raising a Child with Autism

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
August 1, 2022 6:00 am

Don't Give Up: Raising a Child with Autism

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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August 1, 2022 6:00 am

Julie Hornok discusses the tendencies of someone who has been diagnosed, dealing with grief and feelings of disappointment as a parent, and eventually realizing the hope that is found in Christ’s purpose for you and your child. Julie encourages parents to seek support for both themselves and their children, surrender their plans for their family, and believe that God has given their child a beautiful purpose.

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If you have a child with any diagnosis and special needs diagnosis any mental health issues autism you have been chosen by God for different life.

You know it's not that this thing happened that he chose you to live a nontraditional life that's Julie Warnock. She's our guest today on Focus on the Family as we explore some of the unique challenges of raising a child with autism John for parents of any child who has special needs. Life can be difficult and heartbreaking journey times because no matter what qualities you tilt your child may possess. They will always be viewed by the world as different rights are not like most others, and often times is less than another factor is how the diagnosis impacts you as a parent grief, you will experience over the loss of dreams for your child and family and John we've mentioned before on this program how you and your wife Dana have gone through such challenges with your son, saying yeah yeah he was adopted nine months diagnosed two years with with autism and some other challenges as well physiologically and we have gone through everything you just talked about the shifting sands of expectations and what is normal and how are we to deal with this. There's a lot there and it's been quite an incredible journey because that you're going to jump in.

Probably a lot more than to give your perspective and Dennis but let me clarify some things for listeners and viewers on YouTube.

Autism is still very much misunderstood.

In our culture today. One in every 44 children is diagnosed with autism. That is a huge number and there's a wide spectrum that children are diagnosed with high functioning to very impacted with autism finally win the Christian community should be the first to understand and embrace these families that are dealing with autism and other special needs to Matthew 25 makes it clear when we serve and care for the least of these in our society. It's the same as serving and caring for Jesus Christ. Let that sink in for minute so that's why this topic is so important for us today and were so honored to have Julie Warnock here in the studio with us. She's an author, speaker, blogger and cofounder of labeled and loved lifelines for special needs and today you hear a lot of personal stories and some of those are captured in a book that Julius pulled together united in autism finding strength inside the spectrum.

This is a collection of stories about families and I think it's a really great resource for every parent to connect view their child in this community through get your copy by clicking the episode notes or give us a call 800 the letter a in the word family Julie, welcome to Focus on the Family ;-) I'm thrilled to be here. It's good to have you describe for us what Lizzie your daughter was like before her diagnosis what was going on. Did anything catch her attention. Well, it was hard to tell because I had an older child.

He was a very busy dizzy child and she was typically developing all the lab and tell about nine months and I look back in her baby that I can see some things that can have raised a red flag and just that. Maybe she was she would flip through books just for hours on end without really looking at pages just there and she just didn't require a lot from me and was very, very different than milder time. That's really important, especially for moms who have young children to be able to diagnose. I mean, it is not always going to turn out to be autism, but to be aware that it's so important to be aware.

So as a young mom and even your husband Greg were there conversations about that doesn't seem exactly right. Well now conversations about it because it wasn't so obvious, and we really didn't start to seek help until things became pretty obvious because we just that we are in a family of like extroverts just laughed and I thought oh you know this little girl doesn't need much attention. She likes to be by herself.

Maybe that's an intern as I did know and you mentioned that nine month mark is that when it was more obvious or how old was she when you did say we need to probably talk to somebody yeah we found nine months and she kind of stopped noticing the world and so before then she had been developing typically sitting at crawling and she said it is a cute little thing with her brother where she would crawl and calm, and then she stopped and looked back and Mike let him catch her and then one day just can't stop. She just stopped looking at and that she would crawl really, really, really fast and she's planted a lot me to spot that so funny.

You know as apparently didn't really put it together and it was something more that she was truly not looking at the world and that was a sign that she wasn't observing what is going on and then from there it was about eight years process of where we just saw her, spiraling down sexy after that started waking up from her nap's just clinching her face, sweating and crying on and then she started had underground slapping of the arms. She began to walk on her tiptoes.

She started lining up all of her food and then began lining up her toys as well. And then I think the thing was just the hardest in force just to get some helpful ways that she truly just wouldn't answer to us like she went inside herself, psycho her eyes glazed over so she could be standing right by me and I had no connection to her.

I was screaming her name and she went that had to be so difficult for you Greg. I mean, trying to manage this. There's not that point. You haven't really seen the doctor. There's not a lot of support around you.

All these fears are bubbling up to me what take us to that emotion and what to understand that mainly just we were 28 years old and we had a really truly been following justice classic traditional lifestyle that I think you are almost taught to seek and so we had got married we had successful jobs. We had our first child, I was able to stay home with him because my husband was doing well enough for me to stay home and we had just and builds our dream home because my father is a builder and I was able to design and then build at home and so really we had great supportive family a great, supportive charts and I felt like we were kind of in that bubble of running towards happiness and running towards comfort and I think often you know we set that is a site like averting other things and might have a great life and we kind of thought we are on top of it all over like we got beautiful family a boy we got a girl and so then when things started happening, and going downhill with Lizzie. It was felt so out of control, you know. And just like I was taken back in didn't know what to do and I had never met anything I had to fix or anything.

I had been out of work hard enough to something didn't work as I was working for it. I would just stop, regroup and work harder and it just didn't work like that thought.

Let's spend a moment there was a fixer mentality, but it's completely reasonable. I think every reasonable person every reasonable parent would've fallen into that mode. It's not a bad thing, but how did you manage trying to over fix like I didn't do well at all. Yeah I'm a fixer by nature, and I really and we jumped in very strong with 30 hours a week of therapy running out of my house therapist coming in and out we had behavioral therapy. We had 30 hours 30 hours a week that's a full-time job. Practically, yes it is a full-time job and and doing other therapies that was my complete eat, focus, and I think the problem with being a fixer like Diane is that data seems that I know what is right and what is wrong and and you know lots of times the things that I think are wrong which in my mind autism was wrong and I was trying to fix and go back to that traditional lifestyle and that just wasn't God's plan for us and got what I thought was wrong was actually what guy was going to use and I think that happens a lot in family John you can resume trucking because at about two years we had enough concern working through some of the attachment issues through the adoption just the headbanging screaming.

The lack of communication sensory pushback in every sort of way that we had a diagnosis from a neurological specialist and pediatrician work and he basically said he's got autism LC in the year and that didn't sit so well for us because for us the heart was well were benchmarking against five other kids. He's struggling what is it what's the puzzle to unlock the well remember what Julie was saying or thinking of being accused.

You also have 30 hours, she was a strong ball bear. We had three therapists every day coming in the house we had on the beach, ulcers of therapies and yet homeschooling five other kids. It was time in and it wasn't we were overwhelmed to the point of sadness. We were just sad for him because obviously there was a struggle within that we couldn't figure out, sure, and that's part of what takes place. Julie you also talk in the book about the impact on your marriage. You and Greg what that looks like and that's heartbreaking but it's kinda like what you got to do in the moment right. There's no other way to take this hill describe what was going on for you will be my focus is completely on Lizzie and like I was completely researching, connecting with other people just doing anything and everything I could for her because you know when a mother's your child is hurting him and that you're hurting and just that pain was so intense and watching her into all of my focus was on her and then what was left ever went to my eldest and I just I didn't have a lot to get and I didn't have anything left for him and I think it was so wonderful and I'm so grateful for is that he had made a commitment to us and to God that he would stay in take care of our family no matter whether he felt loved or not and I think that's really just incredible that even for years of not feeling left for me probably that he just stated he put his head down he went to work every day. He provided for family.

He loved me he loved our kids and it wasn't contingent on me being anything back and letting him so unusual, so many families with special needs kids struggle marriage to the point of it breaks up because you're getting everything you can to those kids. I think the divorce rate is around 30% roughly the research but let me ask you, Julie the good days in the bed so you get the diagnosis, like were John and Dana were no the doctor says okay this is what we think your child is struggling with, and then come back in a year that was your situation, but what were the good days like and what were the bad days like, well, the good days I had together a lot to get to that because my focus was so intense and so strong and the good days were the days I could slow down and just appreciate her for she who she was, where she was and I think we don't do that enough you know where busy trying to get to this angle.

I can't wait till she speaks. I can't wait until she can go to school.

Can't wait till she can play with a friend at recess. We always have these goals because were trying to go back to these traditional benchmarks and the good days I whenever we can top stop, take a breath just like her. She's funny, you know, look at her.

She did something so adorable beautiful nightdress you know there's just slow down be like. I just adore my child exactly how she is Julie. I was intrigued by something you said Mrs. that you cannot actually grieve until you realize autism is forever number four people jump on that as a Christian you can pray and ask God to heal your daughter. We get that we understand that but differentiate that. That realization that that's true.

I'm sure you and your husband pride God would intervene. Of course, but then moved to that idea of grieving autism is something you deal with your lifetime. I mean absolutely in my head and we were veering off course and it was to be two years since I had in my head diagnostic to and I don't know what was in there that can go stronger and go hard for two years. Six and we will fix and children back to typical and by four and someone forking around and she was really not in communicating with SLC have a language that wasn't able to have any connection still had no connection and I think it really hit me hard and were I went from the place in my mind as taking it from parent to so when you are a parent and you know we are to be content you parent for 18 years. You send your kid to college and then you put them off into the adult world and you enjoy eldest phases that you go from parent to caretaker and in lifelong caretaker comes and that we realize, and this child isn't on the same trajectory is not. She may not go to college.

She may not ever have a family and so you have to really work on that and for me that came in just a really I was just struggling really really badly and in my mom.

I just have a great really helpful mom and she came in she was helping me and with every thing the kids that she took the kids at school and she looked in my fridge and she's like Julie you know you've got to get through today I faster one job and sounds like okay I'm like I can do that legit satellite had moms will understand is that we have like a mommy uniform right like we have likely Lano that are solid colors we can wear them out not get called out and so I went to Walmart in the South that my mommy uniform and I got all the food and I got home and I was like really proud of myself because it was a lot on me and I put on the counter and that was just all I had to guess, is it in so I laid on the couch and I will myself for the rest of the day to just get up off the couch and put feet away in ice can do it because I was grieving and so you realize when you get to that place my mom actually got home that day and she's like what is happened here eating all the food had spoiled and I was sitting on the counter that had gone and gotten at the store she's that place of grieving where you really need to take it and realize okay this is lifelong. Your life is gonna look completely different than you thought it was and you have to actually take what you thought of being greeted and also what you thought it was going to a lot of what you expected. It was never revealed that you still expected.

It was your hopes and it is your dreams and it was what you thought. But then you can go into and begin enjoying and find the joy in this new life.

Once you grieve it and accept it as a lifelong in your work and obviously writing a book, do you meet other young moms who don't grieve it well and they're just like plowing ahead. They're just gonna be toughened until that moment that brickwall is going to be there coach them. Yeah, I meet so this is something that actually made me want to go interview families all over the world is because I noticed in my circle of moms my circle autism onset their women as they went, they were either getting better better and said they were either taking what life is had given them to make themselves better to better the world when they were just getting angrier and angrier and fight harder and it was like they were's thinning and sale and my heart just breaks for the mom who is getting there because I know I get it, I could've gone that way you know you don't always know how you can react and what can happen and and so I thought I'm just getting compiled the stories that can inspire the end of moms that are have gotten better and how can they do that and so I just picture them on honey like a really day here and get the whole sleeve of Oreos and just taking a break and read in one of the stories and just being inspired and that's I just share with them just to go stop and just look at people that seem to be okay. Ask and find out how why are they doing okay and it really does all come down to that except that so well said Julie you do talk about hope for parents in the situation there's three words that you often give as advice and they are support surrender and belief, touching on those units. The purpose of beautiful purpose. Perhaps God is given you right so explain what you mean by each one of those support surrender and beliefs while finding support that does not not just for the child that also for yourself because that sometimes it's sometimes what we missed is that support that we need to get far south and that word I hear from parents most when they get the diagnosis is that they feel helpless and I think it surprisingly but I also felt very helpless and so we think of support that easy. It's all out there you know everyone knows about it, but it's like your brain gets really fuzzy and you click into either fight like your wife and I did right-click and defiantly click and freeze and so is just not as cut and dry and you really need to be reaching out to community and and just finding the people that can guide you because I do feel like I really and truly just provides the people and he provide estimate I hear it from every parent of our talk to and I have experience my own life that if we ask you guys can send the right people to guide us and so finding that support within your own communities. They can sit face-to-face and you can have a conversation with somebody gets it and also somebody that probably has little more knowledge than you think. That idea the being in the Valley it's okay yeah no don't grieve your grief yeah but you know the idea plowing through the learning from an understanding of his left support surrender is doing that exact thing we talked about and said that you don't get better as though it's going back to I'm going to surrender the life that I thought I was going to have and if you have a child with any diagnosis and any special needs diagnosis any mental health issues autism you have been chosen by God for different life. You know it's not that this thing happen to you is that he chose you to live a nontraditional life and that is exactly what you should do and find the beauty in it that you can't do it until you decide to grieve that and to move forward in the new life and just take joy in the things that you can take joy in the obvious one is beliefs and believing at the point well believing that your child has a beautiful purpose in this world because and I remember I was kind of passionate out God and just now I can't believe we haven't gotten farther like she hasn't progressed more. I can't believe we haven't mailed to me for you know just grappling with Hannah in the car and I just remember him saying you know it doesn't matter.

There is no better life like that. It doesn't matter if you go to. She goes to Harvard or she ends up in a group home. The best life is the one I have for you. That's life is the one that my path for you is on so if I choose to put her in a group home and that's where she ends up, and that's where she's going to be then Juergen be able to bless people in that scenario she's gonna be the happiest in that scenario that's really easy in ministry or same thing. She goes to Harvard and that's my plan for her, but there's no like we might put these benchmarks in the world like he got a harbinger appear then you know maybe just normal college and maybe like a community college and then down here you have the people that we are supposed to help in the world, email, and it just doesn't work like that God has such beautiful purpose for each and every one of our kids, whether they're wearing diapers and their an adult or whether they're out speaking to the entire world that he is nothing missing our children. You know that he loves them just as much is given that purpose and I think I see what some neat and even in our churches. I see people that have their walls built this high so high can't reach him that you can reach him as a child with special needs and they watch them praise Jesus in their walls him down because he gave them childlike innocence that is so beautiful that you know we can look at that and we can see God.

I can truly see God and my daughter will and I think you know, for those of us that may not have that extreme situation. It's hard to understand because we have gone through quite like that.

We work, try to figure okay. She really being honest with yourself here that you can get to the point so I know perhaps suffering comes in all forms and that in this context, it's the realization that this is what God wants me to do and I'm going to remember to honor the Lord and it let me in. With this. What I think is a pretty tough question for many years struggled with a heartbreaking question for the Lord wondering why your daughter had to suffer and teach you to trust in surrender, what were just talking about how his God answered their prayer for you. Yeah, she really and she I could see from the very beginning that it was. I needed working out. I knew I needed work.

I wasn't very compassionate. I wasn't looking at others in figuring out how I could help.

And so, from the minute she was diagnosed with star like this.

I can see it just really changing my heart and opening my eyes to others pain so I got that that wasn't ever something I really had it work out guys knew what he was doing. I knew I knew I needed to be crushed.

I truly did, but what I couldn't get over you know is why God did she have to be in pain why she banging her head in her physical body in pain and why does she have to struggle so hard to speak. I then later on a super getting into middle school and high school you she just wanted group of girlfriends just to hang out with all of the time and just the sadness behind not being undefined. That was really really hard and so watching her suffering. I was suffering like your changing me, but you're doing it to her and it was just so very difficult for me and that she graduated from high school last year and she came to me and she said mom I want to share Jesus with the world and it was like a light like oh my gosh like this was never about me as a parent, it was about meeting Christ and change it was that he had her going through these things so that she could let out her purpose in this world and so you know if your share Jesus with the world and you know how to not have people liking you know.

And if you're sharing Jesus with the world. You have to know how to fail to get back into work hard and to do the things that and come with a lot of trial and error, and she's Artie had it in her young life. He knows that it was never about me. It was always he was changing me that he was tainting her and preparing her as I so appreciate that. It's a byproduct of your situation is not because Lord didn't give you Lizzie so that you could be changed yeah yeah that such a better way to look at when I appreciate the growth you're expressing what is that update with Lizzie what's happening with her.

She graduated high school you graduated high school and she is now in college living on her own living in the dorms doing really well in school and now there still a whole lot of struggles and up and down and working to make friends that she is really doing well and I'm so proud and and it gives me. I just can't believe are here to be honest with you get. It gives me the opportunity because community is so important in finding community and for us is important and through our nonprofit label and love that worked were doing that were connecting moms with mom so they can each other's lifelines to move together in this journey because we are not meant to live alone. I mean, God gives us people so that we can build to me that are not meant to be a labeled level link to the will of people can find easily at our website and that of your great way for folks to response this is been so good. I appreciate your heart. I wish Greg were here you represent the family well. Thank you.

Thanks for doing the journey in writing this wonderful resource united in autism and as we normally do. If you can make a gift of any amount will send a copy of the book as our way of saying thank you for being part of the ministry. This is touching a lot of people and I would encourage you if you're not living in the space just open your eyes to those around you in church.

Ask your pastor who might be dealing with this and get a copy for them. What a great ministry because they may not hear the show right you're listening to it.

So God has a purpose for you and listening to it as well.

Even if you're not in the middle of this and again Julie, thank you so much John, thank you for sharing your thoughts to the were grateful for the opportunity to have the conversation let me encourage you to get a copy of the book united in autism, along with the CD of today's conversation just up by the episode notes or call 800 K in the word family 800-232-6459 Julie was soon to walk this journey alone. If you're in need of support. Give us a call here at Focus on the Family curing Christian counselors on staff and privilege to set up a consultation for you the number again is 800-232-6459 tomorrow. Kathy Cook will describe why resilience is one of the most traits you can foster child. Half of Jim Daly and the entire team.

Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family John Fuller inviting you back and help you and your family thrive in Christ, I'm here asking people how they could both give and get to know you love you give and get love through body.

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