This blog is from Michelle Mocini, who is a mom of two boys, one on the spectrum. Her son, Michael, 12, is unable to speak but has found his voice through hand-writing letters to his friends, family and school teachers.
Our son Michael is 12 years old and attends school at Holland West in the autism program. He was diagnosed with severe autism at 3 years of age. The initial prognosis was grim. We were told he would never communicate and would only develop mentally to the equivalent of a 27 month old. We were told about our options and sent off with little hope other than trying to accept the reality of having a child that would require constant care for his entire life.
My husband and I never accepted the label “severely autistic.” We continually looked for ways to help him grow. At age 6 he still did not speak and every method we had tried to get him to learn how to communicate failed. Our world grew smaller and smaller as the years went by. He struggled with noise, people, smells, many things we just did not understand. Trips to the grocery store were unbearable for him. He would scream and cover his ears. It also became more and more uncomfortable being in places where people would stare at us. He would scream if he was in situations that he could not handle. It felt like we were a circus act. People would stare at him, offer advice, usually that he was naughty, or comments that Santa wouldn't come if he was bad! We felt ostracized. Also, there was a feeling that he needed to be protected from the comments and stares from people. We knew he understood what he heard people say.
We moved to Holland when Michael was 6 and put him in the autism program at Holland West. Within a week we saw changes in him. He was so excited to go to school and he had this beautiful teacher named Kate Oster. He beamed with excitement every morning when he saw her. We watched as the bond he had with her continually grew.
Slowly, he began improving in some areas. Two years ago we started taking him to Dr. Brain Hanks. He is a chiropractor kinesiologist. Within six weeks of that meeting, he was riding a bike. Something we were told he would never be able to do because he struggles in certain areas with his fine motor skills. It was a dose of hope that we desperately needed.
Last year he started writing with Kate Oster. Little scribbles here and there. He learned to write his name. The people involved in his education just kept pushing him. The occupational therapist, Steve Prins, continually worked with him. None of them gave up or ever said he won't be able to do this. My husband and I prayed as we had been for many years. Not that Michael would be fixed, he is perfect to us. We prayed hard for a way that he could learn to communicate as it would greatly improve the quality of his life.
We have waited to meet Michael for a long time. We knew there was this beautiful person we desperately wanted to understand. It has been heart wrenching as a mom to wonder when he cries, why, what he really wants to eat, what he likes, does something hurt, is he hungry, all of it! Everything a parent wants and needs to know.
Two months ago he started writing. Letters upon letters! Just writing away with Kate Oster. In one of his first letters he stated that he knew how to read and that he was smart. He is currently on a mission writing letters to all of the people involved in his education. Advocating for ways to help his teachers learn how to teach people with autism. Every letter he writes includes his classmates whom he always refers to as “me and my friends.” He recently wrote the Superintendent of Holland schools. They write back and forth and Michael is continually writing letters about the best ways to teach children with autism. His letter was put in the school news letter and he wrote that he was going help the teachers learn how to be amazing teachers.
We are still taking in the miracle. We are meeting our child, something we have prayed so hard for. This little guy that we never knew much about, but we always believed he was in there.
Today I received a letter he had written to us about Christmas. He told us Jesus is his best friend and that Jesus loves all of us so much. He requested that we attend church on Christmas and that he needs his teacher to come because he has a lot of questions for the pastor.
To sum this letter up, I know this could offer so many others hope. Never give up and never stop believing that your prayers are not being heard. Don't ever accept what others say. If we would have, and never believed Michael was not capable of achieving, well, he would not be where he is today.
Things may not come as quickly or as we may have hoped for, but prayers are answered. Michael's life is like a big puzzle. The key players that have gotten him to where he is today have come in at different times, but they have all been put into place. It has taken time and patience. Here we are today taking in more than we could have hoped for.
Read Michael's beautiful Christmas letter below: