“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” -Sir Isaac Newton
Often credited to Sir Isaac Newton, the point of this quote is that together, more can be done than by working alone. By building off the work of others, Newton was able to take his vision and experiments to newer and greater heights. I bet this quote came right after somebody told Isaac he was amazing. We get that a lot. “You guys are amazing!” Almost always “amazing”; sometimes “awesome.” While my ego loves the idea of this, the rest of me realizes that alone, we’re nothing special.
We mess up all the time. Please don’t judge our highlight reel against your behind-the-scenes. If we have succeeded on any level, it’s the one where we admit to not knowing what we don’t know, asking for help, and being open and honest.
When we first got Jacob’s autism diagnosis, we quickly realized that we didn’t even know what we didn’t know. That’s a scary and dangerous place to be. We started learning, and talking to experts. We asked for time on the podium in church on Sunday morning and explained everything (as best we could) to the congregation. That simple act of vulnerability, where we tried to explain why Jacob is the way he is, and could you still find it in your hearts to accept him anyway, was very powerful. Instead of the shame and ostracism we feared, we got understanding nods, hugs, and vows from people to be there if we needed anything.
Jake has adopted Phil, the head usher, and together they help people to their seats and wish them well at the end of service. Jake loves Phil, and he loves saying goodbye to the “customers.”
We sought occupational and speech therapies for Jake in Bangor. There just wasn’t anything local at the time. It took driving the 60 miles to/from Bangor several times of week, but Jake got the treatments he needed. I remember his speech therapist Jim putting Jake into a rotating office chair and only letting him spin if he made the “Guh” sound in Go! Getting him to vocalize, even that little bit, was a huge challenge at that point.
Leslie, his OT, helping us understand why and how Jake’s body acts the way it does – and how to straighten things out was immensely helpful. Having Leslie teach us how to bring order to Jake’s helter/skelter nervous system through brushing, joint compressions, therapeutic touch and listening literally changed our lives.
We worked with Billie and the girls at Child Development Services to get Jake ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) teaching as preparation for school. They taught us to use visual schedules, PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), and if/then boards to teach Jake basic life skills and learning strategies. We couldn’t have done that on our own. When Jake got to kindergarten, it was often remarked that he was better than lots of the other kids at sitting in his chair and attending to his work without fuss. That wasn’t our doing.
At school, we worked (and still work) with an amazing array of teachers willing to adapt the curriculum to meet Jake’s needs. His one-on-one ed. techs and special educators have given so much of themselves to Jacob’s success over the years. It’s really quite humbling. Case in point: when Jake switched schools and left one of his ed. techs behind, she (Diane) would come over to the house to “hang out” for an hour, two days per week. Sometimes they’d go for walks, sometimes just watch Youtube or play Wii together. That wasn’t necessary. She wasn’t getting paid. She just loves my son.
For years, Jake had Nancy come to the house as his behavioral specialist. She would work on his goals, help him with his homework, and take him into the community to get practice being a citizen of the world. Over time she adopted the whole family, and became a surrogate grandmother to us all. Our debt to her can never be repaid.
There have been so many others: Kathleen at Sunday School, Payton; both cousin and trusted friend. Aunt Kelly; go-to person for all things Jake. There are too many people to list them all. If I didn’t list you by name, please forgive me. I can already hear the music as they try to drag me off stage with my rambling acceptance speech. There have just been too many people with starring and supporting roles raising our little Jake to name them all in one blog post. I also cannot begin to express my full appreciation to the countless number of people whose name should be listed. Thank you. Thank you. We’re truly blessed.
If you’re to base our “amazing-ness” on the success that is my Jacob, just make sure you pat yourselves on the back, and most likely, your neighbor as well.