How Far We’ve ComeBy Kelly Hafer
By Kelly Hafer
This past weekend my children – all my children – and I participated in a Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k. It wasn’t the New York City Marathon by any means, but the progress that my Ted has made can only be measured in leaps and bounds.
When Ted first came to us, he was in constant sensory overload. I believe it was at least partially due to lack of exposure to the outside world while in care of his, then, foster parents. He was terrified of automobiles. The sound of a passing car would send him into an unreachable meltdown. The wind blowing in his ears had such a deleterious effect on him that we quickly became proud owners of a very diverse Deer Stalker hat collection. Music at a noise level above a whisper would result in instant screaming. He couldn’t handle being in close proximity to people – God forbid you brush up against him.
But this weekend, seeing how Ted reacted to the race scene – the sounds, sights, and actual completion of the 5k on his own two feet – was a metaphorical kick to the head. The progress my son has made is truly remarkable. We were surrounded by more than 12,000 participants dressed in wigs and costumes, they carried bra signs and helium balloons. Some even pulled their own portable speakers blaring loud music. The cheering and commotion by spectators and racers alike was deafening. I just knew we were headed for an epic meltdown.
Instead, I was blown away by Ted’s reaction. He cheered along with everyone. He waved to racers, introduced himself to people we passed by, and walked the more than three miles without complaint, stopping, or bolting. He did more than “cope” with his surroundings, God, he thrived. I don’t know how his face didn’t ache the next day with all the ear-to-ear grins this kid cracked. I can’t say the last time I’ve seen him so happy. Quite a turn around from his early years of being so terrified of a new noise that he would bolt from my hand and into danger, so stricken with fear the fight-or-flight response sent him into life threatening situations.
Several times throughout those three miles I found my eyes welling with tears. My pride and surprise in Ted’s progress took my breath away – well, some of that may have been pushing a stroller up-hill. So often it’s hard for me to see the progress that he’s made. I still see so many things that we need to work on – the “Deficit Model” has really been drilled into my head. Thankfully, every so often, I get hit over the head with the growth and change Ted has made. I get to realize that though different phases seem infinitely long and frustrating, given enough time, we will see change. We will see improvement. And, hopefully, as time goes on, I won’t need to be hit over the head to recognize it.
Kelly is a Navy wife and mother to four children: a 17-year-old neurotypical (if you can say that about a teenager!) daughter, 6- and 5-year-old boys on the spectrum; and, since life was getting a touch boring, another beautiful baby girl. Kelly is the Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Military Special Needs Network. MSNN is a peer-to-peer support organization founded to respond to the needs of all branches of the military and of our Exceptional Family Members. We strive to provide family and emotional support and lasting friendships – See more at: http://