I would like to take a moment to introduce you to my best friend Laura.
Laura and I have known each other since middle school. We both grew up in Oregon. While growing up, I considered Laura's mom (Linda) my 'second mom' because I was always at Laura's house, and Linda always treated me like I was one of her own! Laura also has a younger sister (Nerissa). Nerissa and I used to go to private, Christian school together, and were in the same grade. Laura, however is a few years older than me.
In 1997 Laura and I went on a missions trip to Wales. We ended up going back there after the missions trip to attend Bible College. I stayed one year, and Laura stayed 2!
Soon after coming back from Wales, I joined the Army. I served 5 years active duty and during this time, I met and married my husband of 8 years, Troy!
Laura returned from Bible college and I was living out of state serving in the Army. Laura moved to Tennessee, because that is where God was calling her to serve.
While living in Tennessee, Laura met Andy. They fell in love and were married.
Laura gave birth to Coen, her first son in August 2006. I can remember how happy I was for her when she told me she was expecting. I also couldn't help but feel a bit sad. You see, at this time, I believed I could not have children (little did I know that God had other plans)!
Shortly after Laura had Coen, Troy (who is currently serving in the Army) and I were reassigned to Maryland. So we packed up our two cats, one dog and a fish, and drove from Oklahoma to Maryland.
On the way to Maryland we stopped in Tennessee and I met Coen. He was such a stinkin' cute baby!
I was so happy for her and her little family.
Shortly after arriving in Maryland, I found I was pregnant with my first son, Aaron.
I was filled with joy! God was faithful indeed!
In February of 2010 Coen was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)!
When Laura told me, I was heartbroken. The news shot through me like an arrow through my heart. Part of the reason for that was the simple fact that her and I grew up together, and that Coen and Aaron were so close in age.
When you are young and carefree, you feel so indestructible, invincible. Then you grow up, get married, have kids and the responsibility creeps in. I regard my family as the most precious things to me in this universe!
When something happens to one of your children, its like your world crumbles around you.
But wait a minute here, even though I feel this is my story as much as it is Laura's, I will let her tell it to you in her own words!
Let me introduce you to my dear friend Laura and her precious family:
Here is Laura's story, in her own words:
"Caring for Coen… A family’s journey with an autistic child.
This is the story of my family (me, Laura), my husband Andy, our 4 year old son Coen, and of course Rylee our 2 year old daughter. This is the story of how the diagnosis of “Autism” changed our lives forever. When Coen had just turned 2-1/2 yrs old, we noticed that his speech seemed a bit delayed. Coen being our first child, we really had no idea at what rate a typical 2 year old should develop. At a ‘routine’ appointment, Coen’s pediatrician suggested we have him tested for speech delays. In the midst of the testing, several other tests were done to rule out other possibilities.
In February of 2010, our son Coen (at the age of 3) was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
That has been a year and a half ago. I have walked this road for some time now and have come to realize, while a common thread exists among parents of autistic children, each has had a different path to find. Even as the number of cases continues to rise, there still seems to be no clear cut solution to indicate what a family must do when faced with such challenges. We made a decision to find Coen the help that he needed; regardless of where that would take us. Because we lived in the country, the resources that Coen needed were not readily available. The closest place that I found that could take Coen right away was 2-1/2 hours away. There were a few that were a little closer but there was lengthy waiting lists for most of the places and then they could only see him for 1-2 hours a week. I knew we just couldn’t wait any longer and I was certainly not going to settle for 2 hours when I knew he needed as many as he could stand. I left out on Mondays with the kids and returned on Thursdays, only to work for two days, see Andy and then do it all again the following week. We had to stay in a hotel during the week because we still had a house in West Tennessee. It was only after one year of travelling back and forth that we were able to rent a home closer to Coen’s therapy center. After many miles and many nights in a hotel, my son has made progress and my daughter is now a well seasoned traveller.
Coen has been in intensive therapy in Nashville, Tennessee, for over a year and a half. His progress has been remarkable, but he still has a long way to go. CoenCoen will be enrolled in a pre- k class consisting of typical and special needs children. While school will become a new addition to his busy schedule, he will continue to have several hours of therapy per week. This will help Coen learn to function in everyday situations.
Studies have shown that early intervention can result in a better chance for these children to live productive lives. Funding varies from state to state and in most cases has to be paid out of pocket for those seeking effective therapy. Doctors suggest at least 20 hours of therapy per week but the reality is that many families can only afford a fraction of that. The financial burden can be overwhelming for those parents who choose aggressive treatment options. For our family, many sacrifices have been made, but the reward has been seeing Coen slowly put things together piece by piece.
With the necessary support and guidance, Coen will be able to have a happy future. Until a breakthrough happens in the research of this disorder, families must rely on the support of those who are able to lock arms in the fight for the minds of these precious children.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story and for your prayers and support for our family!"
By participating in the upcoming on-line raffle #caringforcoen (beginning in August), you will be helping to relieve the financial burden this family is currently facing!
100% of the proceeds will go directly to Laura and her family!
Thank you all for following my blog!
~Mama of the Littles~