Jeffrey’s Story – Part II: Finding Hope In Three Little Words

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Update September 2002
By Jeff’s big sister: the amazing Lauren

When my mother told me that I was finally going to have a little brother, my heart immediately burst with joy. I began to daydream about all the things I could teach him, all the knowledge and joy I could share, and all the noogies I could so lovingly pass on. I had so many scenarios going through my head: he would grow up to be an all-star baseball player or the President of the United States. He would learn karate from me and my closest friends, would be a straight “A” student and, most of all, my best friend. I would teach him everything, how to treat girls, how to manipulate mom (shh….don’t tell her I said that), and how to be an overall good person.

When my little brother, Jeffrey “Bubba” Ackerman, was diagnosed with Autism I thought all those many daydreams and plans flew out the window. Everyday became a struggle as we watched Jeffrey slip away from us. I found myself wondering “why?” Why did my little brother, my precious baby brother that I had waited so long for, had to be autistic? This child, like so many others, was so little and so pure, yet he had to have so many opportunities stripped away from him at such a young age.

I found myself looking at other children much younger than Jeff, seeing how much more advanced they were than Jeff, and breaking down into tears. I found myself wishing and praying for this to all be a bad dream. I prayed to just hear his voice, just to see his big blue eyes look into mine. I prayed for three little words more than I had ever prayed for anything in my entire life.

Amidst all the tears and questions, my family summoned as much strength as we had and pulled together. Instead of quietly watching our angel slip away into another world, we fought back. And we fought hard. We went to great lengths to get Jeff the best doctor in the autism business, Dr. Jerry Kartzinel of the Good News Doctor Foundation / ICDRC. We formed an in home therapy program that worked Jeffrey 35-40 hours a week. We fought long and hard with only the vision of a cured Jeffrey in our minds to drive us on.

I found myself looking forward to the good days, the good moments, which were so few at first. The simple things became so important. One look. One smile. One laugh. One kiss. All those things drove us on. All those simple little things that so many take for granted were little miracles that brought us hope.

One day all that prayer and work paid off. I told my brother that I love him and I heard those three words I had waited so long to hear. Jeffrey told me “I love you.” Never in my life have I ever been so happy. Never in my life have I ever felt so much pride, so much joy. Never in my life have I ever witnessed such a miracle from God.

Jeffrey has been improving daily and has come leaps and bounds from the day that he was first diagnosed three years ago. Jeffrey now has over has thousands of words. He has his first day of kindergarten tomorrow and will be going three days a week with an aid. He can sing songs, he can write his name, and read a couple hundred of words. He can tell you when he hurts. He can tell you what he wants. He can tell me that he loves me. Yes, there are still good days and there are bad but those three words drive us on. Those three words give us hope.

I have heard so many people ask me why I think God chose Jeffrey to be autistic and not some other child. I have heard so many people ask “where was God?” Why did he do this? Does he not care? I may not have all the answers but I am beginning to find some. I believe God chose Jeff to be autistic because we can fix him. Because we will fix him. Because we are strong enough to fight and make him all better. I believe God has been there with us the whole time pushing us on, giving us the will to fight, and the knowledge that we needed. I believe God has a plan and we are just another part of it. He will use Jeff and our family to touch others. I believe that he loves us and this is why these things have all happened. I believe and trust in him with all my heart.

You see, because of Jeffrey, my mom has started a support group that has touched a lot of other families. I don’t know how many people she has helped. All that I know is that my mom has helped so many people and will continue to do so as long as she can. She gives her all to her children and the children of others. Because of Jeffrey my mom and I started a website called Curing Jeff’s Autism now called TACA which is dedicated to helping families of children with autism. All this is a part of God’s plan and it is all because of Jeffrey.

If you take away one thing from what I have said today take away hope. Because in the world of Autism all you have is hope. Hope in whatever form it may come. Perhaps for you it comes in your child’s laugh. Or maybe your child’s touch. Maybe you find the sound of the Velcro on a PECS book comforting. Perhaps for you it is one simple look that says it all. In whatever form you find it, hold on to it with all your strength because there will be good days and bad. Hope will carry you through as it will carry us through. Your child will get better. Jeffrey will get better. Never give up. Never stop hoping.

And just because your angel may not be able to say those three words does not mean that he or she does not feel it. One day you will hear those three words just as I did. Then it will all be worth it.

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Notes from the author:

A special thanks to all those that encouraged me to add another chapter to “Jeffrey’s Story”. You were all very right, Jeffrey deserved a sequel. I can only hope that this somehow lived up to whatever expectations you may possibly have had.

A special thanks to all those in Jeffrey’s life. You make a difference. Your kindness, understanding, and patience touch our hearts in such a way that we will never forget. Your love gives us hope.

A special thanks to all those families of other children with autism out there. You are angels. You fight a most difficult battle every day, a battle that many could never handle. I commend you and your strength. My heart and my prayers go out to you.

And a most special thanks to our heavenly father who has been with us every step of the way and will be there the all days to come.

About the author:

Lauren is Jeff’s big sister. There is a 14 year age difference between Jeff and Lauren. Lauren has been an instrumental person in Jeff’s life providing much love and support. Lauren wrote her first essay about Jeff, “Jeff’s Story Part I” originally as a high school junior. She liked the essay so much she used it as part of her college entrance paperwork. University of California of Irvine accepted Lauren starting in September 2001. She wrote her follow up essay “Jeff’s Story Part II” and will continue to follow up with new essays as Jeff continues to improve every day.

As a parent I am so proud of Lauren and her accomplishments but most of all I am so proud of her as a person. She has a big heart, is very intelligent, funny and caring that she is an honor to have in our family. Parents are supposed to raise and teach there children, but to my surprise Lauren has been one of the best teachers to me in my life. I love you Lauren!