This is my grandmother, Jimmie Marie Thomas-Jordan, as a youth
My grandmother was born in Birmingham, AL and she along with her parents moved to Detroit, MI in the early 1910s She was 2 almost 3 years old when she became ill, and lost her hearing. I don’t know the illness that did it. I know that my great-grandmother called to my grandmother and my grandmother never answered or indicated that she heard her mom calling her. That’s when great-grandmother took her to the doctor and discovered she was deaf.
In the picture above she is attending Michigan School of the Deaf in Flint, MI. She is about 9 or 10 years old (about 1920 or 21) in this picture.
This is a picture of the Michigan School of the Deaf about the turn of the 20th century.
Here is something quaint: When my mother was a little girl and attended school, the teachers thought that she was a deaf-mute because she never spoke. They finally realized that she could speak. It was the fact that her parents were deaf mutes and used sign language to communicate that she didn’t speak.
During that time, my mom said she was embarrassed that her parents couldn’t talk and she hid the fact that she knew sign language until my grandmother came up to her school and began talking on her hands to mom. After she left, the teacher, bless her heart, raved about the fact that my mom could communicate like that. From that time on my mother was never ashamed of sign language again. More tomorrow.
I can truly say that I have been blessed to have the best help and resources for my Jonathan. I don’t have but one complaint—I can’t take his elementary school teachers and para support personnel with me to middle school.
From his first pediatrician to his first neurologist, his Earl-On professional who first visited me, the school district special education persons, bus drivers, Kindergarten through 5th grade teachers, his resource teacher (the best), social workers, speech therapists, psychologists, principal, secretaries, lunch aids and especially the friends he made in elementary school, Jonathan’s Way has been forged by the best of people. I am blessed to have known them and I keep in contact with some of them even now.
His pediatrician told me, “Mom give it time. He may be a big boy, but he’s still a little guy.”
His neurologist told me to help his development by putting him into Karate classes. We kept him there as long as we could. He was almost a brown belt with the money ran out. My poor husband struggled to pay for it!
The Early On Professional told me, when I told her I wanted to home school Jonathan, “He has to get out and get exposure. You cannot home school him. She was so right. (I became his road manager taking him to every event, birthday party, pool party and school event I could).
All the teachers for the many parties, concerts, field trips, and more that gave him the exposure he needed. He developed so well.
Therapists, social workers, psychologists and para-professionals helped me to help him grow and develop into the pre-teen he is. They pushed me and I pushed him to go beyond what is expected of a “special needs” individual.
Don’t underestimate those who know about your child’s challenges. Seek them out and use all the knowledge they have. Follow their instructions to the best of your abilities. Appreciate them. Thank them.
I love sharing the pictures of Jonathan’s early childhood. They look so cute and sweet. He seems like all is well. It wasn’t.
The time came when I dreaded the mornings because even with the song I sang to him daily, there was turmoil trying to get him ready for school daily. From the time he got out of the bed until the time he got downstairs outside waiting on the bus there was all kinds of conflicts. I tried everything I knew to work through it. Little to none of it worked. In fact, at times I had to call the school bus depot and let them know not to come and pick him up. I would get him to school myself.
There were days I cried along Jonathan’s Way, because I felt all alone traveling his way. I knew from the look in his face that he really didn’t know what was wrong with him either. It was that look more than anything that helped me to keep a good grip on my emotions each and every day. It was only once he got on the school bus or I got him to class that I cried, just to release the tension in me.
We attend church regularly. When Jonathan was 2-1/2 years old, I was sitting in service with him next to me. I didn’t have any problems with him at church as far as bad behavior. But one day I noticed he was afraid. So, I picked him up and held him in my arms. I tried to put him down once and he clung to me tighter. I started having a hard time breathing, his arms were tightening around my neck and his head was buried in the side of my neck as if he were hiding from something. I finally got his arms from around my neck and sat him on the pew next to me. He jumped off the pew and crawled under it. I kept telling him to get up and tried to pull him from under the pew. It was almost an impossible feat. I finally did get him up and took him by the hand and drug him out of the sanctuary into the hallway and finally into the church nursery. It would be 3-1/2 years later before he sat in the sanctuary again. He was 2-1/2 years old when I took him out of the sanctuary. He was 6 years old when he returned to it or should I say when we returned to it.
I went through a lot of emotions in that 3 1/2 year period. I found out that he was afraid of the ceiling fans in the church sanctuary. It was so bad that my husband and I had to bring him in the church from the back door and take him straight to the nursery. I thought his pediatrician or his neurologist could give me some medicine and take away that fear. Both of them looked at me at separate appointments and said, “Mom, you just have to wait him out. He has to process it and there is no set time for that.” It proved to be a lonely time for me traveling Jonathan’s way during those years. I felt stuck and that I’d never be able to attend service regularly again. On the Sundays when we had our Communion services they had to bring my sacraments into the nursery for me to partake. My husband, a minister at our church, was always up in the pulpit with the pastor and other associate ministers while I was stuck in the nursery with Jonathan and other kids, babysitting, playing with, reading to, and talking to all the little munchkins. I confess that I was angry with him, too. I cried a lot during that time, wondering when it would all end.
Erika, Jennifer, and Johanna are their first names. All of them are in their mid to upper 30s. So, when I tell you that they should have grown out of rivalry, I think that they should have. That truly isn’t the case. When Christmas time comes around instead of the smell of pine cones and peppermints and mistletoe and egg nog, there is the smell of blood between two of his aunts. They vie to give him the best gift. Not necessarily the most expensive gift, but truly the best gift. I stay far away from that feud! But there can’t be any three aunts who love their nephew more than these three love him. He is covered and surrounded by the love of adults, as he is the only child among them. He can truly bask in their love. It makes my job a bit more pleasant, especially when they come and get him and take him places with them. I couldn’t ask for better aunts for him. If money is needed, and they have it, there is nothing that they won’t do for him. He is blessed with aunts who spend time with him.
Erika, his oldest aunt has been his constant playmate. Since he cannot act as if he is 30 something, she acts like she is an 11-year-old kid. Truth!
Jennifer, Erika’s rival is loving and dotes on him. She thinks she can take my place. Please do, I say from time to time. She is tender-hearted and protective of him.
Johanna, is Jennifer’s twin and the younger of the two. She, of all of them knows how Jonathan thinks. She and Jonathan have checked out many a cartoon DVD and cartoon movie. She is able to identify with him.
Jonathan’s neurologist, after diagnosing him with ASD scheduled several tests to see why he wasn’t talking. The primary test was one to check his hearing. I tell you medical technology is a wonder. My blissful ignorance began to morph into knowledge. That knowledge equipped me more and more to help him.
I thought that when he went for the hearing test, that there would be a doctor with a bunch of tuning forks to strike on his own elbow and put behind Jonathan’s ear. Don’t laugh, you probably thought that, too. But along with one of my daughters we went to a specialist and my daughter was directed to sit in a room that was just great for little children, with all the books, toys and stuffed animals to keep them happy. Jonathan was nervous so he just sat on my daughter’s lap. The test was simply a sound was piped into the room and when the child would hear the sound, they would look in the direction of that sound. Jonathan aced that test. Every time he heard the sound, he turned in that direction. His hearing was fine. WHEW!
The next test was a CAT Scan I believe. Because he was so young, he had to be put to sleep to complete it. Goompa and Jonathan’s Dad went into the room with him. I stayed in the waiting room looking at decorating books. There again, the professionals put him to sleep with a mask over his face before starting an IV in his little foot to keep him asleep for the remainder of the test. I wish they would do that with me before inserting an IV. The scan was normal. So, his neurologist had the school district to come out and evaluate him. They were like a lifeline to a drowning person. These two women were great. In fact, they put my mind at ease so much that I felt for the first time I could help him. They told me that the first thing they wanted to do was put him in preschool. He was a month from being 3 years old and still wasn’t potty trained. But they said he would benefit from preschool. He did. I was the one who was having the anxiety attacks and separation anxiety. I imagined him in a corner of the classroom huddling and shaking and crying for me. He came home that first day and nothing changed. I got better as I dropped him off and picked him up. Still no change. But I continued to get better with the idea of him being in a classroom setting.
I don’t remember when it was, but two significant events happened. The day he actually turned 3 years old, we had a party for him at the bowling alley. From that day to this day, without ever having an accident, he potty trained. Joy, joy! No more pullups! The next thing that happened was he came home from preschool one day and I said something like, “Jonathan, pick up your toys.” I heard in a loud clear voice, ‘NO! STOP!’ I was shocked. It was music to my ears. He had spoken for the first time. The tears formed in my eyes. More tomorrow.
So far traveling Jonathan’s Way, I’ve spoken a lot about how I felt. But I want to introduce you to my husband. His name is Stanley and hands down, he is the one that Jonathan loves the most. (We fondly argue from time to time who Jonathan loves the most, but I think my husband has me beat. No matter). My husband has worked hard all his life. He is calmer than I am or he does a great act of being calmer than I am. When we found out that Jonathan was Autistic he said very little. I know that he prayed for his grandson. I was a stay at home mom and I had the time to do the most. But ‘Goompa’ Jonathan’s name for his granddad was his world. When Goompa would come through the front door, Jonathan would laugh joyfully and begin to dance! He would actually do a ‘Jonathan dance’ when Goompa came home from work. We loved it.
I think Goompa’s quiet reserve helped me more than I can say. His exterior calmness helped me to focus and learn about Autism and seek the help I needed to help our grandson. Goompa would take him for walks and let him pick up a small rock each day. When they got back to the apartment, he’d let Jonathan drop the rock down the drain outside before coming inside. He and Jonathan would stand on the porch and just hang out. Every night for almost 3 whole years he would read Curious George and the Pizza to him. He was consistent about taking him for a walk and talking with him. Stanley would sit on the sofa on the weekends and get the storybook and have one of Jonathan’s action figures, in a make-believe voice read his favorite book to him. (Once he and Jonathan were sitting on the sofa and an action figure of the Incredible Hulk was reading to them). When my husband saw that I was stressed and impatient with Jonathan, he’d make sure I had some money and would tell me to go to a movie or go buy something, just so that I could get out of the house. A support system is needed when dealing with special needs challenges. Please be a little supportive when you can.
Goompa and Jonathan still have that special bond. He loves his Goompa.