By: Melissa Archer/
(to the tune of Elmo’s World) La, La, La, La…Jasmynn’s World
Since the arrival of Jasmynn & the discovery at 2 ½ she had autism, it has taken all of our family’s energy to raise her up. We have worked as a team, like never before. The cliché “it takes a village” is so much more true even today than back in 2003; Walking away from the University of Michigan Neurology Center, having been told our perfect child scored an I.Q. of 31 & would never “grow up” beyond the mental age of 18 months, deflated the joyous balloon we had all been hanging on to. Nobody should have to hear such gut-wrenching news stated in the cold, matter-of-fact-doctor-jargon, that we did. And then to be given discouraging expectations for our daughter’s future. “Don’t mortgage the family home. There is no fix for this.” the resident psychiatrist said as we walked out the door.
But forge ahead we did. I read and absorbed any and everything written by the specialists about her ASD/developmental delay. I discovered: our Jazz would have to be pulled into our world rather than enter willingly. She would flick her fingers and flap her arms like a broken bird. She would spin, laughing ridiculously and completely immerse herself in the twirl of a ceiling fan. She hid beneath the weight of floor mats, heavy carpeted rugs or disappeared silently behind the furniture, never responding when we’d frantically call her name. Eye contact with another human being just didn’t happen. She obsessed over VCR movie boxes and no matter how many times I’d stack them away, she would toss them all into a movie mountain pile in the family room. As she grew older, there was no language coming from her mouth; instead, she made wicked ear-piercing shrieks that sounded like a shrill cry from a caged bird. She didn’t point at things, but chose to pull me by the hand to the refrigerator to get the juice she so badly wanted.
Following the devastation, there was hope. No late-life-baby could have blessed our lives more or brought more joy. It has been a battle; a lifelong journey with turns and twists in the road we seldom see coming. Jasmynn is a puzzle that we have all worked desperately to piece together so that the world will know her value.
Yes, she is different: weird, odd, quirky…the synonyms abound. She is not like you or I. Yet she is amazing in her own way. She has the purest of hearts. She doesn’t know deceit. She doesn’t see the differences in skin color or body size. She will never obsess over too much cellulite. She may never comment on the world around her or be bothered by the evening news. Instead, she is filled with spirit and joy from the moment she wakens in the predawn hours to the nighttime rituals where she says good night to her absolutely favorite Sesame Street furry red monster, Elmo.
There are lessons to be learned from such an individual. She is a gift none of us could have imagined 16 years ago. So when people say, “It’s too bad, but at least she’s beautiful.” We just nod and wonder how they’d feel if they could only see the world through Jazz’s eyes.
(Jazz is the inspiration behind the founding of Jasmynn’s Voice, a nonprofit organization which “gifts” iPads and often the communication app for those struggling with language delay due to ASD and living in 4 southern Michigan counties. ) www.jasmynnsvoice.org or visit us at her FaceBook page www.facebook.com/jasmynnsvoice
Melissa Archer is a retired English teacher, and mom to 5 girls (ages 40-16). Melissa worked at Lenawee P.R.E.P. for 7 years with the teen moms. She is now the President and co-founder of Jasmynn’s Voice, a 501c3 which has been gifting iPads/otterbox cases/ AAC apps to those struggling with language delays due to Autism since they began it in 2012.