We should never take for granted the things that we can do, as for others these things may be terrifyingly difficult. A seemingly simple thing, like going outside of the house, can be incredibly traumatic for some. James is one of them…
Last year several events collided to place James in the eye of a perfect storm. The onset of Epilepsy, added to his existing diagnoses of Autism and Learning Disability, was one of them and probably the most significant. James had struggled with transitions for a while, but these struggles really stepped up during summer term; first at school and then at home. Changes in staff, fellow pupils and classroom all contributed to an overwhelming situation for James.
By the end of summer term he had retreated into only being willing to be in his ‘safe places’ at home; his bedroom, his den, our living room and kitchen, the ground floor bathroom. Some limited success in the autumn where he was able to come out for night drives offered hope that things might return to the way they were, but these little trips became fewer, and eventually James refused them altogether.
By May, James hadn’t stepped outside of the house at all for six months. We hadn’t given up trying, giving him the opportunity to come out, but nothing worked; we were running low on ideas.
Then an idea was suggested… an idea that would be a long process but that might just help James. The idea was to place a table outside of our door into the back garden, and to place on it things that James liked. Would he be willing to take a couple of tentative steps outside to collect his favourite toy, or a snack, from the table?
At first, James tried everything to get us to collect the things for him… Taking us to the door and making it really clear that he wanted us to gather up the goodies on the table and bring them in. Hard though it was, we had to refuse and wait to see if he would do it for himself. After it became clear that he wasn’t going to get us to collect the things for him, he eventually, and very bravely, took his first blinking steps out into the sunshine, picked up Winnie-the-Pooh, and stood there for a few moments, seemingly in shock at what he’d just done, before bolting back inside again.
We wondered if that would be it, if he would ever be able to muster the courage to step outside once more, but a few moments later he dashed outside again and grabbed a pot of PlayDoh and a bag of crisps before coming back in and firmly shutting the door behind him! This routine continued for several days, and so we introduced ‘Stage 2’; the second table!
The second table was placed about two metres further away from the door than the first table. The most favourite things, including ‘Winnie’, were placed on this second table. Sure enough, James looked outside, saw both tables, and managed to make it to the second, furthest, table before grabbing ‘Winnie’ and running back inside!
We’ve moved the second table a little further away, and then a little further again, so that it is now about five metres from the door. James still heads out to get things from it, with ‘Winnie’, PlayDoh, and drumstick lollies the favourite lures. The plan is to keep increasing the distance bit-by-bit, so that James needs to spend a little longer outside each time. Gradually we hope that this will coax him right out into the garden.
These may seem like little steps, but for James they are massive as he faces real struggles with fear and anxiety each time he steps outside. The overwhelming desire to collect the things he loves is slowly winning out over the massive fear he feels. And as James takes his little steps, so do we… little steps of faith as we pray for James and trust in God for him. We believe in these words for James and trust in them, our faith being tested in the fire as we stand with James…
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
“So, do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
These verses uphold us, as we know that God has not forgotten James, but is with him with every little step he takes. Facebook recently provided a reminder of a post from one year ago of a time when we took James out to one of his favourite places, the little café at Compton Abbas airfield where we would have lemonade and millionaires shortbread together. The reminder of these times stung at first, but then made us all the more determined that we will help James to enjoy times like this again, however long it takes! We trust that God’s got this, that he understands; that he has a wonderful future planned for James, and that he will sustain us through these difficult times, growing us in our faith.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” Proverbs 3:5
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7
4th July 2018
Bible passage used in this blog post:
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