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Julie's Story

I’ve often heard that special children are given to special parents. I’m a believer 
as an  RN, who has seen many handicapped children with multiple admissions 
(having astounding, incredible moms and dads who endure days, weeks, and 
months of hospitalizations).  There are many  “Professionals”  who have helped 
many special children and their parents - but there isn’t anything that takes the 
place of a family’s acceptance, affirmation, and loving environment for the child 
to build a trusting 

Having three older children, I knew the minute they placed Julianne in my arms 
that she exhibited a different look, a stare without blinking.  With each medical 
diagnosis, it was evident, that Julie had multiple problems. Bilateral hip dysplasia 
required a brace that couldn’t be taken off until age 18 mos. At age two, thinking 
she must be deaf ( from lack of reaction to any noise, except a screaming cry 
occasionally ),  we agreed for her to be  admitted  for a  week’s testing at the 
University of Kentucky Child Care Developmental Program. Specifically the 
Speech and Hearing Center (where the center had placed her on a daily basis) 
gave her a diagnosis that read, “Central Nervous System Disorder” with “Autism”.   
At 2 years old, the University of Kentucky placed Julie's record in a deceased file. 
Never reevaluating her for 4 ½ years,  while placed in the Speech Center,  those 
prime years for learning were lost.

Her parents prayed for help daily in dealing with her strange  “isms”.   Though 
well meaning Christian friends advised us to institutionalize Julie, we knew that if 
God had given us a gift,  he would  show us  how to  raise and manage that gift. 
The incredible way we found help each time,  at just the right time showed us that
 indeed he had.

At age 12, after lumbar disc surgery, Julie began homeschooling with a tutor through 
a private school.  When it was revealed to  the School Board of Fayette County that 
her tutor wasn’t a special education teacher - they attempted to have Julie removed 
from her home and put in foster care.  Julie started in the public school system and 
was mainstreamed for 2 years, but yet couldn’t write her name.  She ran away from 
school  time and again,  until her first grade homeroom teacher had a heart attack. 
Deciding to retire, she begged us to find a private tutor who could teach Julie one 
on one. We didn’t find one, but she found us. It happened in a blizzard that the only 
person who could have saved Julie from being taken from her home found us and 
formulated a plan that kept us from losing Julie. With a providential tutor, Julie spent 
the next 2 ½ years at the same private school where her siblings had gone. She was 
evaluated at the University, testing as a Learning Disabled Student instead of a 
Mentally Retarded one, coming up to a fifth grade level in reading.

She had no intelligible speech till almost 9yo, but now can communicate perfectly.
Again, through events that her parents couldn’t have brought about alone, Julie recently
has been on a TV program highlighting Autism Awareness Month for FEAT of Chattanooga.
That same night Julie gave a speech about her life overcoming obstacles as an Autistic
person. This video tape can be available for any FEAT group to view. Better yet, Julianne
is available to speak at your meeting, alone or with her parents (who will be glad to share
some of the incredible answers we've found to circumstances no parent could have found
without providential leading).

 The Professionals gave us a diagnosis of Mentally  Retarded,  adding that she would 
never  finish a first grade education,  but they were wrong.    Through a series of events, 
mostly incredible, she graduated from high school at age 26.  Julie is currently in college. 
Last semester she  passed Algebra and tutored others in her class.  Julie drives herself 
to school,  has a part time job,  babysits for her nieces, runs errands for her parents, and 
does most of the grocery shopping. Although she is living at home, one day I’m convinced
Julie will be  in  the  2%  of Autistic  persons capable of living on her own.  Through these 
31 years many impossible situations have been overcome  -  some seemingly, terrible 
circumstances that later in retrospect showed us that “All things work together for good 
to  them that love the Lord.” We would be happy to share both the good and the bad with 
parents who struggle with these issues in the hope that things we’ve endured could help 

Don, Barbara, and Julianne Duff


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