Gabriel is my number two. My monkey see, monkey do.
I love this kid so much. He was very healing to some places that had been left raw by Michael. He’s my little comedian and mama’s love (I practice saying mama’s love instead of mama’s boy now for when he’s older!), and I think if any of my kids is likely to buy the house down the street, it’s gonna be this guy.
We started to learn that Michael was going to be a special needs child when I was about two months pregnant with Gabriel. I got all the fears you could imagine. How could I take care of Michael the way he needed with another baby? Would this second baby also be on the spectrum? How could I possibly raise two special needs kids? I tried so hard not to worry, but I couldn’t help myself. I was in uncharted territory.
When Gabriel was born, he was a balm. Michael was in a very rough place. His OCD was full blown and he had shut me out of his life. I couldn’t read to him, hug him, or play with him. I had a new baby to snuggle, and it was wonderful to feel affection from a child. I really hadn’t had much from Michael yet.
Gabriel just lit up my life again.
He craved affection. His favorite spot was my lap. He would just sit there indefinitely, sucking his thumb and fingering my shirt. He loved hugs and cuddles. He jabbered baby talk non-stop (while Michael has been silent), and he was a busy little fellow. We had him tested for all the allergies, PANDAS, and conditions that Michael had, and he tested clean. I felt like we had dodged a bullet, and I started to relax.
The conversation I had with my mom was like deja vu. We’d had it about a year ago concerning Michael. “He’s not talking,” she kept telling me. “He’s a boy, he’ll talk late,” I kept saying, but the longer time went on, the more I knew she was right. It wasn’t so much that he wasn’t talking, but he wasn’t communicating. He never mimicked anything. When you spoke to him, there was no sign of understanding. He would stare at me blankly. The only way he could tell me he wanted something was to scream hysterically. At least with Michael we could teach him sign language and he could point to things he wanted, but Gabriel seemed to be an impenetrable wall. Nothing worked. I kept hoping he was just moving at his own pace and that everything was fine, but I finally had to give in and go get him screened.
The screener told me something was wrong and that he needed help. He wasn’t even remotely where he should be. She was very kind and gave me some suggestions and encouragement. I had done this with Michael, and I knew what it meant. I cried the whole way home. I was already two months pregnant with William.
I remember being so upset I couldn’t even call my husband at work yet. I called my mother-in-law and cried and cried. Here we thought he would be OK, that he would be a resting place from all we were going through with Michael. Now we had to start all over again. And what about the third baby? Would we have three special needs children on our hands? I felt devastated and exhausted.
We made the moves to get him therapy. The paperwork and evaluations (again) were depressing, but God sent the right people to us, and they were very discerning. They didn’t set him up for a speech therapy but with a special instructor instead. They recognized something was wrong cognitively. I heard later that this is atypical and nonverbal kids receive speech therapy right away and that special instruction is rare in these cases.
Our special instructor was a Godsend. She taught Gabriel a whole form of non-verbal communication, and I was seeing a twinkle in his eye for the first time in a long time. He was very bright and eager to learn, but he even though he tried so hard, he seemed stuck. It was time to take him to the doctor.
The doctor found scar tissue in his brain, and it had been stunting his development in speech, motor skills, and sensory processing from day one. It explained so much. She was able to treat it, and it was like we saw a wall fall down. Suddenly, he was doing ALL the stuff we had been teaching him for months. It had all been in there, but his brain just couldn’t act on it.
He has a lot of catching up to do. We didn’t find and treat the scar tissue till he was 18 months old, and that’s a lot of critical development time there. I take comfort in the fact that he can catch up and he will catch up, but he’s still a tough nut to deal with sometimes. It’s not like Michael. Asperger’s has rules. They’re crazy rules, but they’re rules you can follow, that bring understanding to behavior. Gabriel’s all over the map. Some portions of his brain have developed faster than others. In some ways he’s like a normal two and a half year old, but in others, he’s like a one year old. It’s hard for me to know how to approach him sometimes, on what level or age he’s being. Teaching and disciplining him have been mentally exhausting, but God has been good and answered our prayers for wisdom.
He’s a beautiful boy, and he will always be my sweetheart. I’m so happy and so proud of him to see the progress he’s making (even if he still can’t sit still for a picture!). His name means “God’s champion” and I fully expect to see him live that out. God has truly blessed us with him.