The Ramsey Family | Oklahoma
This beautiful Spectrum Inspired was documented by Mariah Evan's Photography.
Jack, age 4
"Jack is light. He is everything that is good and right in the world. His smile is so contagious that he brightens every room he enters. His eyes sparkle with constant excitement. I have never met a more magnetic human being. He is filled with so much joy and nothing seems to bring him down."
Words by Jack's mother, Erin:
Jack was such a remarkable baby. He loved me, fiercely. He had all the makings of baby who would change the world. He was beautiful and brilliant. When Jack was 8 months old I attempted to teach him sign-language so he’d be able to communicate. I tried to show him the sign for bottle and he’d respond by saying “bottle.” I was so impressed! While other children were barely babbling, or still a month away from saying “Dada,” my son said “bottle.” It grew from there. Before Jack reached nine months old he had nearly 15 words, almost all of which had at least two different syllable sounds. He was a genius! As the months passed he spoke more and more. There were no red flags, no delays; I had a happy, healthy, smart baby on my hands. At 15 months old I took Jack to the local Aquarium where he correctly identified an alligator, unprompted. And that was the last word he said.
I Googled. I know you’re not supposed to. I know Doctors tell you not to. But I couldn’t help it. I had to know what happened to my little boy. Search after search, the same results kept coming. I tried not to panic. I waited. I watched. I took notes. By the time Jack turned 18 months old, I was prepared, at least I thought I was. I went to his well-check appointment armed with my notes and my questions. The receptionist handed me an M-CHAT. I filled it out, question after question, I answered as honestly as I could. I got to the end, and I couldn’t believe it, Jack passed. Not only did he pass, he aced it! Maybe I was wrong, maybe I was looking for something that wasn’t there. The doctor came in. I told him everything that had happened over the past 3 months. He listened and most importantly, he trusted me. “Just in case, let’s get him evaluated.”
The evaluation process was agonizing. Our therapist was a Jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none. The back of her business card had everything from drug and alcohol counseling to marriage therapy and beyond. How could this be the only option our insurance would cover? But we stuck it out. We answered all of her questions; I made sure not to leave anything out. When it came time for her to ask Jack questions, she only asked three. He couldn’t answer any of them. Her response haunted me, “I thought he’d do much better than that.” On our third and final visit, I had high hopes. He had passed the M-CHAT, he still made eye contact and responded to his name. He understood what I was saying and he loved to show affection. The therapist started speaking. She was acting as though we knew something that she hadn’t officially told us… I asked “What are you saying?” And her response punched me in the stomach. “Oh, he’s definitely Autistic.” I don’t remember anything after that. I left. I made it to the parking lot before screaming out and falling to my knees. A few hours later, I found myself on the floor of our kitchen, staring at nothing. My husband joined me. He didn’t say a word, just sat right next to me and joined in my silence. I love him more for that.
After the shock wore off and I had time to grieve, my new reality set in. My husband hates when I use the term grieve. I think it’s a necessary step though. I can’t fully celebrate and embrace the child that I have, until I mourn the loss of the one I thought I had. Our story might not have unfolded the way I anticipated, but it’s still our story and a damn good one. Jack is four. He still doesn’t speak. But he still loves me just as fiercely as he did before the diagnosis and he has never had any difficulty letting me know. And he’s still just as beautiful and just as brilliant.