Truly one of the most important things I have learnt this year is that we are not alone. God did not make us to be alone, in our lives or in our difficulties, but it is so easy to feel alone when you are struggling with something new and difficult, and the feeling and fear of being in it alone can seem so overwhelming that it’s possible to get to the point where you can’t even ask for help.
This is a long post but please stay with me I hope that you find it encouraging. If you are not a christian or you don’t believe in God in the same way as we do then thats OK you are still more than welcome to stay around, I hope that you will find something encouraging here too.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
I wanted to share a testimony with you, Its something that happened to me over the summer, which from the outside may seem like a fairly small coincidence but to me it spoke volumes about how much God cares for us and wants to build support systems around us, and about how he lays his plans down for us to meet our needs even before we know we have them.
If you have read the blog before you will already know that for a long time we had been praying for help and support for Charlie and understanding, insight and wisdom for us as parents. We felt that God has shown us through books and workshops that the best way to help him would be through sensory integration therapy. Our problem was that it is hard (to the point where it was beginning to feel impossible) to find therapists living or working in Liverpool who are trained in this area. In the spring we managed to find a wonderful therapist from Preston who came to Liverpool ran a full day training workshop and later did a full diagnostic assessment and report for us which diagnosed sensory processing disorder – sensory modulation dysfunction. The report cost us a fair bit of money but was worth every penny it as it gave us a more accurate insight into Charlie’s challenges, lots of practical suggestions as to how to help him overcome them and it helped to secure him a place in an assessment unit for school this September.
Over the summer a christian friend of a friend who is also an OT blessed us with a gift of 4 sessions of therapy. It’s a 300 mile round trip to see her, but again worth every mile as the advice she had given us earlier in the year and the insight she brings had already made such massive changes in our lives and had really helped Charlie to feel safe, calm and ready to learn and play. I am constantly impressed by the approaches the therapists use and the outcomes we have seen. I love how practically and logically they approach each challenge, and how they are able to think outside the box. I have written this so many times but I will say it again our son is literally like a new child since we have started using OT to help him; we have seen massive improvements in his behaviour, speech and language, social communication, overall wellbeing and readiness to learn. I am impressed by the way all the OT’s we have met treat our family as part of the team and not as part of the problem, and I have seen them bring hope and change into family situations where I genuinely believed that I would never see an improvement.
At our last session on the last friday of the summer it was really hard to hold back the tears, as much as tried I wanted to cry and I could feel my voice cracking as I said goodbye to my lovely new friend who had selflessly helped us more than she will ever know. The sessions had been great as had the knowledge that someone was with us in the struggle but the thought of going it alone for the rest of the year was really scary. As we left her house I felt like I was spinning out of control, and I could tangibly feel my desperation to have a support structure, someone who understood what we were trying to achieve and why. I could feel the darkness of feeling alone beginning to grip hold of me again.
But how we feel and what is reality are often not in line and the very next day God did something which totally blew my mind. In his perfect timing reminding me that he is in control and I am not ever going it alone.
It’s a long story, so please stay with me. Back in February we were in the zoo near where we go on holiday and Lilly made a friend of a young girl, for no reason other than thats what kids do, she had a brother the same age as Charlie, and so as 2 families with nothing but the kids in common we wandered around the zoo together. the day sticks in my mind because the kids were all looking really cute and were dressed in coordinated clothes.
It turned out Lilly only wanted to be friends because she was wearing a rainbow’s uniform, (Lilly wanted to go to rainbows but never got the chance). However they must have made an impression on her because from the time we came home Lilly went on and on and on nagging me about meeting up with them again, she wanted to invite this girl to her birthday party and for a sleep over, but the family lives miles away so it just wasn’t possible. Instead the 2 girls wrote each other pen friend letters, something which she has never done before.
By chance on the Saturday the day after our last therapy appointment with our friend we finally sorted out for the girls to meet up again. We went to a pancake house/ garden center/ aquarium near where we have our holidays. The place is free to get into (bonus!) and we never knew it existed before so my hubby was extra pleased because now it’s like his favourite place on earth. While the kids played we were standing talking about our summer.
I knew we would soon be eating together and so felt that I needed to explain a little about Charlie’s eating difficulties and how we have changed our expectations around mealtimes so that if she wanted to she could pre-warn her kids that Charlie wouldn’t be eating restaurant food and may need to use the i-pad or ear defenders during the meal. Not wanting to seem like a complete crank, who feeds one kid and not the other I explained how we had been coming to the area to see therapist once a week. I found myself once again banging on about the importance of sensory integration, explaining what the therapist does and why we are prepared to travel so far to see someone who can help us.
I was telling her about how Charlie has something called Sensory Processing Disorder and how we are trying to use SI to help him. As I spoke her eyes widened. Maybe she did think I was crazy. I mean here I was telling her that she was just about to have lunch with a family who drive 300 miles every week to see someone who plays with their child for an hour in the hope that it will eventually help him to eat. Her only response was to ask me if she has ever told me what she did for a job? I said no, I had no idea what she did for a job. Can you imagine? I nearly died of shock when she told me that everything I had just described was her job, she lectures in OT at the university and has taught for the sensory integration network oh, and for the icing on the cake, she was even going to the sensory integration conference I had booked into in September, the one I had thought I would be going to alone.
There really are hardly any people who do this job and as far as I know there are none in Liverpool at all, I couldn’t believe that God had brought 2 of them into our lives by sheer chance in the space of only 6 months.
After lunch at the garden center they invited us to a village fate near where they are staying which was really quaint and we had a fantastic time and then back to their cottage for spaghetti dinner- which also just happens to be everyone (except Charlie’s) favourite dinner. Charlie had a few meltdowns as the day was hard for him with so many new people and places, but it was so refreshing to be with someone who knows, really KNOWS what is going on and why he is behaving the way he does. Someone who doesn’t judge your parenting when your kid needs to hide under a blanket on the sofa while the rest of us eat dinner.
We had a really lovely day and all got on so well, it was so perfect it was almost weird! Most of the journey back to the caravan that night I was completely speechless, which is very unusual for me. I praise God for this amazing blessing and for once again teaching and reminding me that he never leaves us alone, and that he always knows the plans he has for us.
Since the summer we have continued to see God’s faithful provision for us in the area of support. At the conference I met our new therapist who lives near enough to Liverpool for it to be practical for us to see her regularly. Once again another wonderful person who God has hand picked to bring us exactly the kind of help we need exactly when we need it. If you are reading this you know who you are, please know how much you are loved and appreciated, and that we are blessed to have you as part of our lives.
I have also found support in meeting with other parents of children with SEN many of whom we are able to see weekly at after school club. The kids are entertained learning circus skills and doing craft activities while the parents get together for some peer support and education over a much needed cup of coffee. There are many other people who are part of our lives who encourage and support us regularly. Other parents and teachers from school, church friends, extended family and work colleagues, people without whom our lives would be very empty.