We’ve just said goodbye to some dear friends who were visiting from Seattle.
Seattle is 2400 miles away from us, and we don’t see them nearly as often as we’d like. In fact, it’s been over a year.
When my friend Randi married Ryan four years ago, she became an insta-mom (as she jokingly says) to three young kids, Ryan Jr. (now 12), Brayden (10), and Sienna (7). Both boys have autism.
Early last year, Randi and Ryan sat down with the boys’ teachers to review their IEPs, and asked, “What’s the end game here? What’s the best you’re hoping for our boys?”
The teachers told them that if all goes well at school, their best scenario looks like entering supported living and functioning in a supported work environment when they reach adulthood.
Randi and Ryan didn’t like that answer. They knew the school’s prediction was possible, but they felt like they had to try for more.
So, over the course of many months, drawing on their years of autism research, they constructed a plan that combines hours of play therapy, a squeaky clean diet, and a total change of mindset. They re-built their home to be completely autism friendly. They connected with families who were walking the same path.
They asked for a whole lot of help.
Randi and Ryan recruited a volunteer team of friends and acquaintances (and new friends and acquaintances, they need all the help they can get) to do play therapy with their boys, and just play with their daughter. Their end game is bold, considering their starting point: they want more than anything to draw their boys out of their private worlds and equip them to independently navigate their world, communicate with the people around them, and show and receive love.
Last fall, they pulled their kids out of school and dove in. This fall they ramped up their program: my friend quit her job as a part-time elementary literacy specialist so she could supervise her kids’ homeschool and therapy program full time.
Randi’s told me stories–over the phone, by text message, on Skype–about how well the boys are doing: how Brayden is beginning to speak, how snail mail has become Ryan’s favorite way to connect with the outside world. I’d heard the stories, and I knew they were feeling good about their program.
But last week I could see Ryan Jr’s progress with my own eyes, and the difference was absolutely incredible.
Ryan Jr wrote us tons of letters before they visited. He wrote out a complete itinerary of what he wanted to do. He thoroughly scoped out our city on Google Maps, so it would feel more familiar when he got here. He reviewed the names and faces of all the people he’d see on his trip.
And so they arrived. Ryan Jr wanted to see our mailbox, and all the other Louisville mailboxes his letters had been delivered to. He wanted to visit the post office (twice). He wanted to buy his own stamps, and then he wanted to sit down and right more letters to the people on his ever growing snail mail list.
And he wanted to talk to me and my kids (and my husband–Ryan Jr adores my husband, who’s traveled to Seattle–and our friends’ home–often enough for work to make me really jealous) and ask us questions. Lots and lots of questions, usually in groups of three. He kept seeking to engage us, and that never would have happened a year ago. By the time his trip was over, he was even giving hugs.
It’s a miracle, y’all.
But if you didn’t know Ryan, or his family–or where they’ve come from, or where they’re (hopefully) headed–you might not recognize, at first glance, what a giant huge deal this is.
If you didn’t know the Thornhills, you might think Ryan Jr was a quirky twelve-year-old who asks some strange questions and is a little obsessed with the postal service.
When Randi and Ryan started exploring treatment plans for the boys’ autism, they asked a lot of hard questions about what reasonable expectations looked like: what could they realistically hope for?
And someone wise said to them, “Miracles are everywhere if you have the eyes to see them.”
I’ve taken her words to heart. It’s so true. And I’m so honored I got to see her family’s unfolding miracle in the making last week.
They’re back home now (stupid 2400 miles), but I’m still thinking of them, and getting updates via text–and scanning my own life for miracles in the making.
Because they’re everywhere–if you have eyes to see.
Do you have a miracle (or miracle-in-the-making) in your own life that might not seem like a big deal to people who don’t know the circumstances? I so hope you do. Please tell us about it in comments.