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Guest Posting: The Handwritings On The Wall


Our son was officially diagnosed with Autism at 34 months old. We have had quite a journey, publically and privately, often finding ourselves in the eyes of judgment (you may remember my supermarket meltdown moment from last year)  But what just happened in our home has given us hope once again for his bright future.

I will never forget the look of orange chalk on the black wall and his four-year old handwritten letters unmistakably spelling out, GRANT JAMES.

Spaghetti and spinach, that’s what we were having for dinner. I had just finished chopping vegetables and breaking pasta noodles. The littlest one was coloring with her Toy Story 3 friends, and my oldest was watching Disney. As he faithfully does, Grant made his rounds through the kitchen supervising the progress of dinner; his job is setting the table with plates and utensils. Perhaps sensing that dinner was still far off, he searched for something else to do.

A nine-foot high chalkboard wall uniquely frames one side of our kitchen. It is the yes wall; yes, you may write on this wall, yes, you may be endlessly creative, and yes, you will clean it bi-weekly.  I turned to open the refrigerator door and saw his left-hand do something I’d not seen before… he, without hesitation, was clearly writing his name.

Time and I stood still watching the bright writing across a black powdered sky.  I cried and it had nothing to do with the diced onions in my hand.  I cried because the fountain of knowledge in his being had just overflowed and I was an eyewitness.  I cried for all the information I know is inside of him trying to find its way out. I wonder just how much he knows.

Though hours have now passed, the moment remains new and awe-mazing to me still. All of Grant’s effort led up to this one moment in which he freely wrote what he knew; he knew his name. I remember my son’s early frustration with pre-writing strokes and holding oversized crayons to paper long enough to make recognizable shapes, letters and numbers.  One day he was highly flustered about writing the number ‘5’, I suggested he return to something more comfortable like writing numbers 0-4, and 6-10. His teary-eyed beautiful brown eyes looked at me and he shouted, “FIVE(5)!”

In yet another life-changing moment I realized my son wasn’t looking for the easy way out.  He was looking to learn it and conquer it, and no matter how long it took, eventually he would get it; and he did just that.  Amazing what a teachable spirit can learn, and I have learned so much from him.

I breathe in these scattered yet frequent moments as they give perfect hope. It’s like watering a plant and nurturing its soil so that it gets everything it needs to grow well. By the time we see and celebrate the beauty of the bloom, tremendous growth has already taken place deep inside.

Indeed, the handwriting is on the wall and it points to a brighter day…

But what about you… have you had an amazing breakthrough moment with your own children? What were they? I’d love to hear your stories…

Sarena James, 36, is a wife and mother of three who enjoys theater and writing. She and her husband created a website,, devoted to conversations about special needs children and their families. They reside in Charleston, SC, where they revel in history and relax beachside. Originally from Aurora, CO, Sarena is a graduate of Paine College in Augusta, Ga.


  1. Rene Syler

    February 20, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    AME-MAZING is right! Sarena, thank you for bringing us all on this journey with you and your family. And GREAT JOB GRANT JAMES!

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  3. Nikki Newman

    February 21, 2011 at 12:03 am

    Hi Sarena, thank you for sharing this, I’m not ashamed to say I have tears in my eyes – your description of this tremendous moment had me there with you! You’re right in that these things are glimpses of the work and development that’s gone on over months and years. Gosh it must have been magical to see. Yes, well done Grant James!

    My 14 year old half brother, Alfie, has Aspergers and this week my dad and step-mom are making preparations to take him to his new – residential – school at the weekend. The journey to it has been long and complex, and it will not be easy (it’s breaking their hearts yet they know Alfie will benefit from it, it’s an amazing school)…I think what I’m saying is, I sense a breakthrough moment on the horizon for them, even though they are unable to see it right now; reading this today resonated even more because it’s on my mind and I’m many miles away feeling a little helpless!

    Thanks again for sharing.

  4. b.

    February 21, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    This story is beautiful. I’m so happy for you and proud of your son!

    I am reminded of something I heard on the radio just this morning called Project Touch. Here’s the link for the story:

    Here’s the link for the actual project:

    Basically, a young lady found that the iPod Touch she gave to her cousin allowed him to communicate in ways he otherwise had trouble doing.

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