My name is Melissa Barton, and I am the proud mother of Ethan Barton, a student at the Little Lighthouse who was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder in 2013. When my sweetheart, Vince, and I got married, we always knew we wanted a family, and after just seven months of marriage, I happily found myself pregnant with our first child. After a good pregnancy, with just normal aches and pains of age, as well as a bit of high blood pressure and carpal tunnel, Ethan gloriously arrived in our family in January of 2010, and life would never be the same. I remember how perfect he looked; how I counted all ten fingers, ten toes, and how I was felt so relieved that he was so healthy and beautiful. We had prayed long and hard for a healthy baby, attended all my prenatal appointments, took my vitamins, watched my food choices, took prenatal classes, and did all I could to ensure a good delivery. It wouldn’t be until months later until I would find out my Ethan had special needs.
I adjusted into motherhood like any new mother, both with anxieties and joys, trying to learn all that I could, trying to not make mistakes, trying to be there for my son in every way I could. I remember one day feeling particularly anxious about mothering when my sister told me the only thing I needed to worry about for the first three months was keeping my baby alive. I laughed and then she told me she was being serious, then I laughed even harder! I really took it to heart. My first struggle was trying to get Ethan to latch on for breastfeeding. He wanted no part of it. After hours and hours, and counseling by the lactation consultant, she concluded that Ethan’s tongue needed to be clipped in order to latch on, but I would have no part of it. After all, she was not a doctor. So, for the next five months, I pumped breast milk and kept a grueling schedule; when he was sleeping, I was pumping, when he was eating, I was pumping, I felt reduced to a dairy cow and felt like I really missed that bonding experience, but felt breast milk was best. Nothing about mothering seemed “natural” but scheduled and deliberate, and after five months, my milk dried up and we switched to formula.Ethan and Mommy 3 months
In the days and months ahead, I did everything I could to bond with him. I held him all the time, gave him massages after his baths, and generally was very responsive to him. The only thing I couldn’t understand, is why he wasn’t responding to me. I have seen babies and moms interact, that beautiful thing when a mother smiles or coos, and the child lights up and gives his best attempt to mimic his mother’s gestures; this simply was not happening with Ethan. As the months went by, I noticed how he did not look me in the eye or respond appropriately to my many interactions. He often stared emotionless, and I was really concerned, but nobody in my family seemed to think anything was out of the ordinary. I kept trying to dissuade myself from the inklings I had and telling myself it was all in my head, but I couldn’t get pasted the nagging voice inside that there was something going on and I had better face it for my sake as well as Ethan’s.9 months
It wasn’t until Ethan failed his screening for autism at 18 months that somebody started taking my concerns or feelings seriously. I knew that early intervention, getting him help now while his brain was in early development, would be the best thing for him, not waiting around hoping “he would just grow out of it.” I learned that a mother’s instincts were to be trusted more than anyone else’s, for I knew God gave me the gift of discernment to help my son. We immediately inquired at the Little Lighthouse and were put on the waiting list for him to go to school, and we got him into speech and occupational therapy.16 months
Inside, when I got the news that Ethan was showing signs of autism, I wanted to fall apart. I was mad at myself, mad at God for not answering my prayers for a healthy child, and mad at the disorder. However, instead of letting myself grieve the diagnosis and fall apart, I just got busy with seeing what I could do to help my son in the face of such an overwhelming challenge. I changed his diet to a gluten-casein free diet, got him tested for allergies (he was allergic to milk), I enrolled him into speech and occupational therapy, and I learned everything I could about what my baby was facing. We also enrolled him into a developmentally delayed preschool class at three where he could get peer interaction and more stimulation in his daily routine. I knew I needed help too, so I started studying the word on healing and trusting God through hard times and praying for His help in me and Ethan’s life. God has been faithful to help me and restored our relationship through all the hard times.Ethan at the therapist’s office – 3 years
After doing all that I could for him at home and with his therapists, we finally got we had been waiting for almost two years! We found out they had an opening for Ethan at the Little Lighthouse and he was going to start in April 2014! What a blessing to know Ethan would have this help and from those who believe in miracles just like me. He has been doing wonderfully and we are so grateful for the support, encouragement and progress we have seen with our son. He can’t wait to get up in the mornings and come to school, and all of this has given me so much hope for my boy.
So, for those who are facing a difficult diagnosis, whether it be autism or some other diagnosis, just remember to always trust your instincts, learn everything you can to help your child, intervene early, and don’t forget to seek God’s help, support and comfort, as well as help from those around you like at the Little Lighthouse. Above all else, never give up on seeing your child succeed and keep believing in MIRACLES!Ethan – Christmas 2014 – 4 years