As a mother of a child on the autism spectrum, celebrating steps of growth and progress are exceptionally rewarding. Yesterday I had the privilege of watching my 10 year old son, Jaxon, compete in a schoolwide spelling bee. It was exciting just to know he was one of the top three spellers in his class with the opportunity to be in the spelling bee.
With only a couple of days to look over the enormous and challenging list of words, I was apprehensive that he participate this year. Not to mention that the stress of standing in front of the whole school under pressure to perform alone is immense for anyone at any age. Yet he wanted to go for it!
I did my best to prepare him for the inevitable missing of a word and having to leave the stage in defeat. "Jaxon" I warned, "even though you are a great speller naturally, you haven’t had a chance to really prepare. It is possible that you may miss your first word in the first round and be finished. Do you think you could handle it if that happens?" He said yes, that he could handle the disappointment of missing the first word and just wanted to try. "I’m so fortunate to be asked, so I want to do it!’
Friday morning, I again gave him the opportunity to opt out and prepare for next year. His teacher had done the same. However, he stood firm in his decision and went to school, ready to accept whatever came his way.
As the auditorium filled with students, teachers and parents, I was beginning to get nervous for him. In Jaxon’s autism challenges, social encounters and situations are truly the greatest hurdle he will have in life. This was AMAZING that he would risk himself and stand before his peers in this forum. The spelling bee students filed in on stage. Jaxon was looking intently to find my husband and I. Our eyes met and he smiled and waved with enthusiasm. I took in the moment, thinking back on the last six years of his life and mine…the challenges, tears, prayers, faith, courage, and hard work it has taken to get him where he is today.
The spelling bee began with two practice rounds just to get their nerves out and to become comfortable on stage. Then the official bee began. Round one.
The word was "noodle". I knew he knew that one! He followed the protocol perfectly. "Noodle. N-o-o-d-l-e. Noodle." Round one was a success! Who knows how far he may get! On it went, round two, three, four….now the kids are beginning to drop quickly. Jaxon is still in the game. I’m amazed and elated with each correctly spelled word, but even more amazing was his overall performance and behavior. He was calm, collected, self-controlled whether sitting in his chair waiting his turn, standing in line, or up to bat. It was a perfect performance. Not once did he do anything that would make you think he was different or awkward. As we watched, the Lord reminded me of a promise He gave me in my heart a year or two ago…"By the time he is eleven, he will be indistinguishable among his peers."
Certainly this day, he was indistinguishable. Just a glimpse of my promise to give me hope and excitement of the healing God is working in his life. I believe it, and I am beginning to see it.
Round six. Jaxon’s word was indulge. "Could you repeat the word, please…" he asked. "May I have a definition?" Taking his time, he repeated the word. "Indulge. I….n….d…u…l……….g." The announcer said, "The correct spelling is i-n-d-u-l-g-e." He turned and walked off stage and came around to the back of the auditorium. Poor guy, he almost had it.
He joined my husband and I and we hugged and congratulated him as quietly as we could as the bee continued. "Jaxon", I said, "my buttons are about to pop off my shirt! Do you know what I mean?" He shook his head no with an inquisitive look. "It’s an idiom that means I am so proud that my heart is about to burst through my chest and pop the buttons off of my shirt!" We both smiled and hugged. (Idioms are especially interesting to him.)
When Jaxon left the stage, there were only six spellers left out of the group of over 30 spellers. The winner was a little Asian girl. The students left the auditorium to return to class. I saw Lynlee, our sweet neighbor friend, yell to Jaxon. "Hey Jaxon!" She gave him an excited thumbs up. He smiled and waved to her. His brother, Jace, ran to me from his class line and hugged me. He too was proud of his brother today, who has often brought him some embarrassment by his behavior in public. Today was a day that made him proud to be Jaxon’s brother. Then came the principal around the corner with tearfilled eyes…"It’s a miracle! It truly is!" We hugged as Jaxon’s speech teacher joined the hugs and tears…"This is only the beginning for Jaxon." Another teacher, a retired substitute who had actually been my own first grade teacher at the school joined us as well. "How proud and grateful you must feel. This is quite an accomplishment for Jaxon and you both."
Today I thank God, the great Healer and Source, for every need I have. I also thank my husband, whose love and patience know no bounds. I thank Dr. Jepson, our autism doctor in Austin, Texas, without whose help and guidance we would not be experiencing this triumph. I thank Jan Bedell, Jaxon’s neurodevelopmentalist from Plano, Texas, who gave us tools and programs to implement at home for two years that made a huge difference. To the awesome teachers and staff at Quail Creek Elementary: Dr. Matthews, principal, Mrs. Carothers, speech teacher, Mrs. Chambless, special ed teacher, Mrs. Folmer, occupational therapist, and teachers Mrs. Fulks and Miss Clay. You have each been amazing in encouraging and helping Jaxon reach towards his potential and overcome his challenges.
I thank Josh Malone, Rachel Morton, and Allyson Whatley, three amazing and godly teens who helped me implement his at-home therapy and gave me breaks for maintaining my sanity. (I am still not sure that they are not angels in disguise!) I also thank my dear friend Lauren Cooper, who would let Jaxon come over to her home and became his friend and encourager. She was the only friend I could lean on to help me with him in the most difficult years. I thank my parents who have helped us financially with his expenses. If we would not have been able to afford the things you have helped us do for Jaxon, he most certainly would not be where he is today. And to his brothers and sisters, who love him daily and have sacrificed so much within our family for his sake. I am so blessed to have the children God has given me. You all have each uniquely blessed and aided Jaxon.
These are the people and things that have made the most difference in the life of Jaxon Blair. What you have done for him has and is making a difference. We are forever grateful.
Celebrating little giant steps,