Happy 10th Birthday, Hannah!

Get ready for a long post today. Hannah turned ten today, and I want to do a “then and now” comparison of how far she’s come these past six years. So here is one day in her life this week with comparisons and comments inserted.

As I write it, I am filled with gratitude to God for all He has done and a sense of hope for what else He might be pleased to do in Hannah’s life. Enjoy!

Hannah got herself up, got dressed, and played quietly while I took a shower. When I came out of the bathroom, she was sitting in my rocking chair petting our dog, Penny. She turned to me and stated, “Penny has whiskers. Whiskers starts with “w.” W-w-w-whiskers.”

As we got breakfast ready, she put Penny’s food in the dog dish and gave her the commands to sit, shake, lay down, roll over, and stay. Then released her with “OK” to eat her food.
Six years ago: Hannah had quit using and saying words that she had previously known and used. Now she talks quite a lot.

She got her cereal and helped herself to seconds at the table while we all sat chatting.
Six years ago: Hannah looked at her plate during meal times or sat with her arm over her face. Now she participates in meals.

After we finished eating, we did our Scripture Memory time as usual. Hannah does not recite with us, but she listens every morning to the verses we quote. This morning we defined the character trait Generosity: “sharing what I have with a happy spirit” and recited 2 Corinthians 9:7. When the verse ended, she asked, “Is generosity like when I share my toys?”
At the end of our breakfast time, we began to discuss where we might keep Penny when we take a two-week trip later this spring. Hannah sat for a while and then told me, “I want to bring Penny with us.”
Six years ago: Hannah was not “connected” with what was going on around her. Now she listens to conversations around her and contributes to them.

After breakfast she brushed her teeth, combed her hair (something we still need to work on!), and made her bed. Then we did her morning schoolwork.

  • Reviewed the value of nickels and pennies and played “store” with some toy kittens to practice counting and combining the coins correctly (still need to work on nickels and the concept of 5s).
  • Did an eye-tracking exercise to help her cross the center line visually and mentally, stimulating the sides of her brain to work together.
  • Reviewed how to make a lower-case “a” and wrote several words that have “a” in them (still having trouble with “s” facing the right direction). We’re using Handwriting Without Tears.
  • Read to her an A. A. Milne poem, “The King’s Breakfast,” with lovely illustrations throughout. Hannah laughed at the end.
    Six years ago: Hannah would not look at a book being read to her; played with her own book or toy instead. Now she loves our read-aloud times and often narrates to me what we read about.

While I helped her sister do schoolwork, Hannah played a computer game (Edmark’s Jungle Chess). She came to tell me that she couldn’t get the sound to work and asked me to help. We discovered that her sister had turned down the sound when she had been playing previously. So we turned the sound back up and Hannah continued playing.

A few minutes later she came back to ask when we were going to eat lunch. I told her that we would eat in a little while. So she got her toy kittens and played with them.
Six years ago: Hannah lined up blocks, books, puzzles, and toys instead of playing with them. Now she plays with toys appropriately.

As she was playing, she noticed that the fax machine was receiving some documents. She got them and handed me the faxes. I told her to give them to Daddy instead. Off she ran to deliver the papers.

When she returned, it was time for lunch. We were having leftovers, so she told me, “I want rice for lunch.”
Six years ago: Hannah would grab our hand and pull us to what she wanted, instead of verbally requesting it. Now she uses her words.

While everyone was getting their leftovers and waiting for the microwave, one sister sang a part of a Jungle Jam song. Hannah immediately chimed in with, “I like the part about . . .” and she described another part of a Jungle Jam tape.
Six years ago: Hannah said nothing just to share experiences; all communication was a request of some kind.

When she finished eating her lunch, Hannah brought a bag of cookies to the table and looked at me as she set them down to see if it was all right to have them for dessert.
Six years ago: Hannah wouldn’t look anyone in the eyes. Now she checks our eyes and faces for approval.

She asked, “Two of them?” meaning that she should take two enzymes along with her cookies. I nodded to confirm her thoughts. Then she picked up one of the inner bags, but it was still sealed shut. Her sister said, “That’s the wrong bag. Use the other one.” So she did — no problem. She had a little trouble getting the cookies out of the bag, so I helped her shake them out. Then I twisted the bag shut. She noticed what I was doing, picked up the plastic clip, looked at me, and said, “Here’s the clip.” She clipped it on while I held the bag, then she took it and put it away.
Six years ago: Hannah didn’t reference anyone’s face to gain information and she didn’t regulate her actions to work together in a coordinated fashion. Now she is learning to do both more and more.

While she was eating her cookies, I heard a “Mom, . . . Mom.” Once she had my attention she began telling me about the animal footprints on her Alaska placemat. She made up a scenario about the animals and the footprints and how the dog in the background was being chased by a cat.
Six years ago: Hannah didn’t carry on a conversation or put together her own words to communicate. Now she is making up her own stories to tell us.

We had planned to go to the store after lunch to get a few things. Hannah initially wanted to stay home from the store, but she decided to go when we mentioned that she could pick out a gift for a friend’s birthday party tonight. (Now that she is understanding the concept of receiving gifts, we’re trying to encourage the flip-side and get her excited about giving gifts too.)

She kept up with us in the parking lot and store aisles, and picked out some caramel-filled chocolates for a gift. When we got home, she helped carry in the bags from the store. By then, it was 3:00, so she asked if she could have her snack. With my permission, she got herself some raisins and peanuts — and put them away when she was done.

I then told her that it was time to do her afternoon schoolwork. Usually we do it right after lunch, but she was fine with doing it after snacks today instead. Here’s what she did:

  • Worked on vowel sounds, using “hit, hat, hot” (We did them yesterday with magnetic letters; so we did them again today with the whiteboard and magnetic letters. She seems to do better with the magnetic letters than with them written on the whiteboard for some reason.)
  • Wrote more words with “a” in them.
  • Reviewed various ways to divide ten. She counted out ten colored tiles from a big bag full of them, then divided them into two piles and told me how many was in each pile. I wrote the numbers, and we repeated with about four different equations.
  • Drew a picture of Penny’s dog pillow and kennel, complete with Penny laying on the pillow.

After schoolwork, she played a couple of computer games (Jungle Chess and Sky Island Mysteries). In the middle of Jungle Chess she came to find me and explained that her sister had turned down the sound again and would I please help her turn it back up. I did, and she was sure to say, “Thank you.”
Six years ago: Hannah would lay on her bed for hours looking at a toy; not playing with it in the usual sense, just turning it over and over and looking at it. Now she uses her time to explore, play, and interact.

One of her sisters joined her during the computer game. At one point Hannah asked this sister to move her foot since it was on the stool where Hannah had taped the background scenery for her Balto play a couple of days ago. Sister moved her foot and asked, “Is that better?” “Yes,” Hannah replied.
Six years ago: Hannah had no pretend play; she didn’t know how to pretend. Now she’s putting on whole plays from her imagination.

Our friends were due to arrive after supper for the birthday party. Hannah had time to watch Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. When she saw which episode it was, she told her sister about one of the upcoming scenes and proceeded to imitate a character’s voice.
Six years ago: Hannah had one volume and one pitch of voice. We have worked a lot on soft/loud and high/low. Now we’re starting to see some results.

When Mr. Rogers was over, Hannah waited patiently for the birthday friends to arrive.
Six years ago: She didn’t acknowledge people coming or going around her. Now she anticipates the arrival of friends.

The rest of the evening was an opportunity to see just how much Hannah has grown to flex with real life and the changes we all encounter every day. We usually open birthday presents in the living room, but since our guests were having coffee in the dining room, I suggested that Hannah bring the presents to the table. She did so and ended up sitting in her dad’s chair in order to be near the birthday guest. Since she was sitting in Dad’s chair, Dad sat in her chair. He drew her attention to that fact in a good-natured way, and she giggled and said it was all right if he sat in her chair.

When it was time for her bedtime story, Dad volunteered to do the reading while I spent more time with our guests. Hannah agreed and enjoyed her story; then I brushed her teeth and tucked her in with prayer and some praise music playing on a CD.

Whew! That’s a lot of typing, but I wanted to give you a glimpse into our lives at this stage in the journey. We’ve come a long way. To God alone be the glory!

Of course, we still have rough days. I would consider this one to be one of Hannah’s “good” days. But God is faithful. He has provided the perseverance and strength and wisdom that you have prayed over us for these six years, and He will continue to do so for the next six years and more. We are committed to keep on keeping on, holding tightly to His hand.

Happy 10th Birthday, Hannah!

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15 Responses to “Happy 10th Birthday, Hannah!”

  1. Karen Treu Says:

    I am praising the Lord with you! This is a fantastic update on Hannah and all God has done in and through her these past six years. I will continue to pray for God’s hand to be on you and Hannah, as you continue “keeping on”.

  2. Peggy Caton Says:

    I was in awe as I read about Hannah’s progress over the last 6 six years.It is truly a miracle of God and a testimony of His faithfulness. I know that everyday in not easy; but God definitely knew which family to bless Hannah with and visa-versa. Keep up the good work, all of you, it is obviously, NOT in vain. You are loved and admired. Bill, Peggy and Josh

  3. Lynnette S Says:

    What a fantastic update! I went to the website right away and couldn’t read it fast enough! We are praising the Lord with you and continuing to pray for strength, guidance, and wisdom. With God all things are possible!
    P, L, W, W, and W

  4. Valerie Wilson Says:

    Thank you, Sonya, for so carefully chronicling Hannah’s life for us. You have given autiusm a “face” and a “family,” and I certainly have more understanding as a result. Rebekah, Ruth, and Sarah are to be commended along with you and John for the remarkable ways you have worked with Hannah through the years. They are very special big sisters! I love you all! Aunt Val

  5. Ann Katherine Bryan Says:

    I am so grateful to read this update on Hannah. I noticed many of these things as I spent time with you in your home last week – Hannah’s interaction, conversation, joyfulness – her smiles and eye contact. All of it brought Joy and Blessing to my own heart because I have watched you walk through this valley. Certainly, the LORD has taken you by the hand and has led you here – for His own glory, for His name’s sake; for your good, that He might restore your soul! He is so evidently with you – may His rod and staff continue to comfort you! And may you see the goodness and mercy of the Lord that is surely following you as you continue to follow HIM! I love you!

  6. Mom Says:

    Because Hannah’s good days outnumber her “not so good” ones, we sometimes overlook how far she has really come. It is such a treasure to watch her grow physically, spiritually and emotionally every day. While the glory belongs to God, I know the hard work and patience that is invested in her every day.
    We love you all very much.

  7. Jean Beeler Says:

    Dear Sonya and family,
    I know of your story through your mom and dad when they were at Valley View. Daneen was so good to give me a copy of your book. It was a joy today to be allowed to share in the progress Hannah has made. Praise God for those advances! I know Hannah’s advancements and your working so well with her is through His grace. How blessed it is to know that He is waiting for our calls. I will continue to pray for day by day improvement as I rejoice with you!
    May God bless,
    Jean Beeler

  8. Jim Kline Says:

    Your Mom sent the 10th birthday note to us..Glad to hear things are going well..I think God has greatly used you for the success with Hannah..God bless you……Jim & Sue

  9. Wes & TJ Jones Says:

    So pleased to see how God has been working with you & your family. It is neat to see how Hannah is doing so well. Keep up the good work & lets see how much God will use you in encouraging other families.
    God bless you all. Wes & TJ

  10. Tammy Glaser Says:

    I am Snoopy Dancing and Victory Lapping for Hannah!

    She is such a beautiful girl and I love how connected she is to you and your family now. I thank God you take time to share all the things that have helped Hannah to relax and enjoy life. Pamela has made the strides she has in the past year because you have taken the time to share.

  11. Clarice Rubek Says:

    Dear Sonya,

    Thanks so much for sharing the progress of Hannah.
    We are very happy that she has progressed so well over the
    past few years. I know it has been a lot of hard work for all of
    you, but certainly rewarding.

  12. Jennifer Cooper Says:

    Happy 10th Birthday, Hannah! It is so wonderful to read about all of the progress she has made in these last 6 years!

    And I want to agree with what Tammy said already: I don’t know if you realize how much God has used your family to touch other lives of families whose children have autism. My Reece and Austin have made so much progress in this last 2 years because you shared with me the things that you found that worked with Hannah. Thank you so much!

  13. Ruthanne Smith Says:

    Oh, my, I read this and cried. My daughter is 9 and has made some of the same gains. Wow. I never really put them in perspective before. I must print this out. Thank you so much for posting this.

  14. Ann Smith Says:

    It’s amazing how far Hannah has come! I do question this “intentional parenting” motto though. If you had truly been intentional from the start then vaccinations should of been researched before birth and NONE should of EVER been given to your child. It would of saved you A LOT of heartache from watching your child withdraw and become locked in their own prison. Let this be a lesson to others to do their research!

  15. Sonya Says:

    Hi, Ann. I appreciate your mentioning vaccinations. Yes, absolutely, every parent should do their research into that issue; I wholeheartedly agree. I do believe, though, that many factors can trigger autism. Hannah has never had a vaccination.