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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