Donna Blake is my guest this week and I know you will be encouraged by her story. We also had a wonderful conversation about her son KJ and their journey leading up to his diagnosis on the Autism Disorder Spectrum, and beyond. You’ll find that below as well – please enjoy and share with a mom who needs encouragement today, especially one on her own autism journey.
KJ is our “surprise” blessing. Four months into my pregnancy I woke up one morning and was bleeding profusely. I was concerned that I was having a miscarriage since I had done so prior to having my daughter Aubrē the previous year. My husband rushed me to the ER where the nurse used the fetal doppler to locate a heartbeat. To our surprise, she couldn’t hear one. The doctor came in to notify us that I would need an ultrasound to confirm if our baby was alive.
While we waited, my husband and I began to pray and declare over our unborn child. We were fairly new in our faith and didn’t have the knowledge of the Word of God that we have now. We also decided to speak positivity and put “good vibes” into the atmosphere so that it would help ease our anxiety. While the radiologist moved the doppler around my belly, I thought I heard something from the device. After extensively searching my belly, the technician turned up the volume and said, “I don’t know what that nurse was talking about! Your baby has a very STRONG heartbeat and is doing just fine! Relief flooded the room as we thanked God for answering our prayers. This was when James 5:16 became real to me – the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. On that day you never saw two people pray so passionately and purposefully as we did for our baby’s life.
Kareem Aki Blake, Jr was born in April 2007. We had just gone through all the developmental milestones with his older sister, but we figured he may hit some targets slower because he was a boy. KJ was energetic, playful, and active, and other than excessive babbling, we didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. After fully examining KJ at his two-year well visit, the pediatrician suggested that we put him into Early Intervention due to some key missed developmental milestones. We later learned how tummy time would have helped him develop stronger neck and shoulder muscles to meet the recommended motor skills development.
As I reflect on KJ’s baby dedication the year before his diagnosis, I remembered our pastor stating we were making a public promise to raise our child in accordance with God’s Word. I believed that I had a duty to not only declare the Word of God over KJ but to trust that God would protect him in every aspect of his life. I trusted that God was working in our favor through every therapy session, every evaluation, and every assessment leading up to a diagnosis. Every time we saw God’s hand move – whether it was getting us a neurology appointment in two weeks that normally took two months, or our insurance finally covering certain services, it has comforted me throughout the years knowing that God has our son in the palms of His hands.
Later that year, KJ was diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). At that time, we honestly weren’t hearing autism since this was not a specified diagnosis, but it allowed KJ to receive special support services in pre-kindergarten. He remained in Early Intervention until he aged out at three years old. We had him assessed by our school district’s Child Study Team to determine where he would be placed for the upcoming school year. Following an assessment by the school psychologist, we were told that KJ was severely autistic, would never be able to speak, and should be institutionalized. I was outraged at this conclusion along with the recommendation that KJ be sent out of the district. I was driven to prove her wrong, as I knew that God had the final say.
I later realized the blessing in KJ leaving our school district, as it was not equipped to provide him with the educational structure that he required to succeed. If he had continued in the district, he would have not had access to the best services and accommodations that were available for his unique developmental needs. In my anger, it never registered with me then that God was working behind the scenes. After a few years of KJ’s services, we met with the neurologist again. I fully expected to leave his office with a different diagnosis from what we had previously been given, or better yet, no diagnosis at all.
KJ was officially diagnosed on the autism spectrum on September 12, 2012. I was stunned upon hearing the doctor’s words. I wanted to hear that KJ was just a late bloomer and would reach his milestones on his own time, and for us to take our son home and put this all behind us. After all the praying, quoting of scripture, and fasting leading up to the appointment, I believed we deserved a more favorable diagnosis than this! Surely, everything we had gone through in the past three years was enough of a testimony, right? Afterward, I sat in Applebee’s teary-eyed and defeated. I wasn’t sad because I had a child with autism. I cried for his future and how people would treat him as he grew older. I knew the cruelty that he could face, and I didn’t want anyone to crush his spirit.
KJ’s developmental pediatrician informed us that since KJ was high functioning, there was no reason why couldn’t thrive. He could go to college, hold a job, and have friends BUT we would have to put in the work. I was willing to do whatever it took for KJ’s benefit. There have been discouraging moments, like needed resources or services not being covered by insurance, or information not readily available, but we pressed ahead to do what we could for KJ, and trusted God with those things out of our control. I thought back to when that same school psychologist informed us that KJ may be able to return to our district in the future. I embraced her words, and we prayed and believed for it to happen. He indeed returned in the 4th grade and has recently started high school.
There are times when I often wonder if I’m doing enough. KJ is healthy, loved, and has a great personality. I’ve done my best to prepare him for the world. At 6’3”, size 13 shoe and a voice deeper than his father’s KJ is now Kareem, Jr. He still has a lot to accomplish and we as his parents still have more work ahead of us. Especially as we begin to navigate the teenage years and what that entails with a now “young man” on the spectrum, but we will get through it. Every day we go forward in quiet confidence and faith, knowing God has given us the strength and grace to take on whatever challenges may come our way. And even though we haven’t seen it yet, we continue to believe and declare each day that God will heal KJ. If anyone can heal him from autism, God can, and only He knows when and in what form that healing will take place.
Words of Wisdom from Donna:
I would encourage other moms to prepare their children for the world. Whether they are autistic or neurotypical, find some way to prepare them. Teach them everything you can that will matter or make a difference in their quality of life. Take small steps and remain consistent and flexible. You may need to tweak or make changes here or there. You may be overwhelmed or see that the hard work that you’ve been putting in is not working or you’re not seeing desired results. Please rest assured when your child gets an AHA moment or grasps a concept or learns how to do something on their own, it is THE greatest feeling in the world! When something you’ve worked at and put effort into manifests itself you feel this overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment, not for yourself but for your child. That feeling is magnified times 10 when you have a child on the spectrum. Celebrate every victory!
Listen moms, life is unpredictable and it’s easy to trust God when things are going well but it’s tough to trust God when life gets difficult. So, whenever you feel unsure of yourself or the process stand on Philippians 4:13. When you want to see change speak Romans 4:17, and when you are worried and unable to ease your fears or anxiety about your Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) child fortify yourself with 1 Peter 5:7. Know that you can trust God in everything and with everything because He never changes and is unwavering. Knowing that, will give you the firm foundation you need to navigate the uncertainties in YOUR journey.
I pray for strength and renewed energy daily for mothers who are going through their specific journey. I declare wisdom and guidance over them to know the best way to respond to their children with the patience needed to stay calm no matter what comes their way. Lord, provide each mom with the resources they require to do the very best for their child and give them the fortitude needed for effective change. I realize Lord, there may be times when they may be tired, weary, alone, and scared but have them rest in the fact that you continue to comfort us during times of uncertainty. Above all else, I pray that you give each mother the courage to not be afraid, but the ability to trust in Your Will for their life and their families.
In Your Son’s Name, Jesus Christ, Amen.
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