Hannah will be turning 20 next month! I can’t help but think back on monumental moments in her life. Some are heart-wrenching, but many more are filled with amazement and joy.
Before Hannah turned two, she lost all her language, began having digestive issues, allergies and what the doctors thought was asthma, and became self-abusive. We were told by the head pediatrician of a reputable hospital, to consider putting her in a home. He said he had seen “kids like this eat families alive.” I saw something different. We didn’t take his advice. Eventually, she was diagnosed with autism and a seizure disorder.
There were times when we didn’t know if Hannah would even live. During the scariest day of all, she stopped breathing while we were at the emergency room. They brought in the crash cart and resuscitated her. The doctor had her airlifted to a larger hospital while I cried out to God with every fiber of my being.
There was no booming voice from heaven, but He answered. His answer came little by little, day by day. Hannah learned sign language and eventually regained her speech. The moment Hannah said, “Mama,” after two years of not being able to, I thought my heart would burst with joy!
One moment snuck up on us. We realized that Hannah wasn’t having seizures. She was taken off seizure meds when we and the neurologist were all comfortable with the idea. She has never had another seizure.
At the end of her third-grade year, I was called in to a meeting at school with teachers and specialists who informed me that Hannah would never be able to keep up in a mainstream classroom and would never be “college material.” They had assessments to back this up, but I saw tremendous intelligence within her. I home-schooled her for the next 2 ½ years. From that point on, she excelled academically – even in Advanced Placement classes in high school.
The moment Hannah got her driver’s license was…well, let me put it this way: the halls of the Motor Vehicle Department had never known such excitement. She is a careful and conscientious driver – much better than many twice her age.
The moment of Hannah’s baptism was amazing. She hadn’t wanted to be baptized, because she didn’t want attention drawn to herself. But, at Faith Christian camp in London, Kentucky, she felt so loved and accepted that she decided it was the right time and place, and it was definitely with the right people.
Of course, the moment of her high school graduation was extraordinary. There simply aren’t words to describe the profound joy and amazement that were more than we could contain.
Today, Hannah is in her fourth semester in college studying Early Childhood Education and has begun student teaching. I’m excited that she chose this field, because I see a great treasure within her that will be profoundly beneficial to children.
You see, when Hannah was two, we learned about a program called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). The cornerstone of ABA is positive reinforcement, a powerful tool, which helps children to learn and encourages them to make good choices. It helped her regain her language and many other skills; extinguished autistic behaviors such as hand-flapping, toe-walking and self-abuse; and increased social interaction. It is powerful indeed.
Hannah has not had training as an ABA therapist, but ABA is as much a part of her personality as her wonderful sense of humor, and she has a compassionate heart for children. I’ve seen her with a child who had behavioral issues. She seemed to know what to explain to him and how to explain it. She encouraged and reinforced his good choices. She saw and met his need from the treasure in her heart.
Hannah became good friends with a young girl at camp named Savannah. Hannah admires and has a lot of respect for her. Hannah said, “I saw a spirit in her that says, ‘I’m not going to let being in a wheelchair stop me from doing anything.’ She would play games with us and even went on the zip line with an adult holding her.” Although Savannah was quite a bit younger, Hannah was her friend. She encouraged and helped her to participate in the various activities.
Of course, Hannah has a very special bond with her nieces and nephew. They absolutely love to spend time together. They had a blast at Christmas. You can tell from these pictures how much they love their Aunt Hannah and how much she loves them:
Yes, God has brought Hannah through difficulties most kids don’t have to face, but He has also blessed her greatly. She has so much to offer. She has more than a heart for kids. My prayer is that God will lead the right employer and/or coworkers to draw this treasure out into the open to be used as the precious commodity it is.
My thankfulness to God is as great as Hannah’s progress!