Kaysville residents Sharla and John Jordan not only find the usual joys and frustrations raising six kids, they have more than your average of everything because four of the six are at some point on the autism spectrum.
But Sharla Jordan remains optimistic.
“We see miracles all the time,” she said.
Those miracles often come in things most parents take for granted, like giving mom a hug.
“We celebrated because we made it through Christmas without any tears,” Jordan said.
“It’s the little things that matter,” she said. One of the boys showered twice last week without being told.
Jordan has written a book, “Autism: Understanding the Puzzle,” which she said explains clear and simply disorders on the autism spectrum. She said it’s a book she wishes she’d had when her sons were diagnosed.
For more information on Jordan’s book, go to www.AutismUnderstandingThe Puzzle.com.
When Tyler, now 15, was younger, he struggled with speech, Jordan said, but they didn’t know he had autism, and they didn’t know where to turn for help.
As their sons came along, they found that they each had different needs. “Some do well in school, some don’t. Some behave, others have problems,” Jordan said.
One of the characteristics of autism is that it manifests itself differently with each child.
“Sometimes teachers didn’t believe one of our sons was on the autism spectrum,” Jordan said. “It’s one of the reasons we moved (to Kaysville). “Sometimes if they (teachers) don’t see a behavior, they don’t believe it.”
The family struggles with daily activities, but there are joys to be found there as well.
“When they were younger, it was hard finding a babysitter you could trust,” Jordan said. Even now, it’s difficult, when the older boys have activities.
That means being able to go on something simple, like a date with her husband.
And, she frequently is interrupted while trying to complete projects.
While trying to get dinner ready recently, one of the boys was jumping up and down, happy and excited, while another was reciting lines from a movie he’d seen recently. Another was sitting with his eyes covered.
She said she can leave 13-year-old Sean alone, but if 9-year-old Ethan is home with him, they feed off each other.
Eleven-year-old Neal had some delays, but it took a trained eye to detect his autism.
Jordan said one of the boys loves hugs, while another is selective about giving them. “We need to stay within boundaries,” she said.
When they were young, the boys acted like teenagers, not listening and being defiant, because they didn’t know how to express their emotions, Jordan said.
But unlike teenagers, the Jordans don’t have challenges many other parents face.
“We don’t have to worry about our son (Tyler) getting involved in the wrong crowd because he doesn’t pick up on social cues,” Jordan said.
“We’re not dealing with the typical teenage rebellion.”
She said they no longer have any worries about the 15-year-old’s future. “He’s developed enough life skills to be OK.”
He also always tells the truth. “He tells us he doesn’t feel right ‘until I tell the truth.’”
Jordan said her boys sometimes still want the latest toys or games, but not because it’s a status symbol, “They want it because they want to play.”
Jordan admits it’s sometimes embarrassing to go out with the boys, but often, it’s because the public doesn’t understand.
“We sometimes get advice from well-meaning people,” Jordan said, and she’s even been told by those who have no knowledge of the family that her kids don’t have autism.
“It’s hard on the boys when people stare,” Jordan said.
Jordan said she’s found good support from her best friend, a supportive husband and extended family and community support.