Title: DEFYING AUTISM
Author: Karen Mayer Cunningham
Publisher: Creation House
Genre: Inspirational/Christian Life/Family
Karen Mayer Cunningham married the man of her dreams, and since he was a church man, expected the blessings to come pouring down. Instead, she found herself the mother of a baby boy named James… a boy who went from being sweet and gentle to increasingly loud and violent, exhibiting bizarre behavior such as eating drywall and rubber.
Desperate for answers, Karen visits a doctor, but she is assured that her child is normal, nothing is wrong. Her husband is convinced that James behavior is just because Karen was a bad mother.
When Karen learns about a program at a local school for three year olds who can’t talk, Karen is quick to enroll James. But what happens instead is a nightmare, as her family is reported for abuse not once, but twice, and James was still not getting the help he needed. Can Karen possibly find James the help he needs and save her marriage in the process?
DEFYING AUTISM is a true story based on the struggles of one family. While not claiming to have all the answers, the author does hope to offer:
Help for those with autistic children or loved ones.
Hope that there is a Lord that still performs miracles of healing.
Healing for those who struggle with a loved one’s diagnosis.
DEFYING AUTISM will take you on a day-to-day journey with a mom who struggled to overcome the challenges and in the process witnesses an incredible miracle.
Written in a conversational, compelling style, DEFYING AUTISM held my interest all the way to the end of the book, odd for a nonfiction, and really odd for a book that really has no bearing on my current life. God has not gifted me with an autistic child (thank you, Lord!) and I really have to admire the courage and fortitude that Ms. Cunningham exhibited as she struggled with both her child and her search for answers. Don’t miss DEFYING AUTISM. It is a book that is invaluable reading for anyone who might come in contact with an autistic child and its family. Should be required reading for anyone who might work with children in a church nursery or school setting as well. $14.99 hardcover. 113 pages.
and an interview with Karen Mayer
You have a real mix of talents in addition to being an author. Will you please tell us about yourself?
I am a stand up comic and speaker with a passion to impart truth and hope to people and to remind them that God is still purposed to have them move into their destiny.
Your new book, Defying Autism, is about your son, James. Will you tell us a little about him?
James is my first born, the apple of my eye. He was born right on time, perfect in every way. He progressed and hit all of the appropriate markers ahead of time. He was one of those vey easy babies that you could pass to anyone and he was still a happy baby. He was pointing and babbling at a year, and into everything!
He sounds adorable! At what point, did you start to notice that something was wrong?
We took James in for his 18-month check up and shots, after which his behavior took a dramatic, turn for the worse. When we brought him home, he would run to the same spot in the hall and stand with his back to the wall and slam his head backwards into the sheetrock. To say this was upsetting was an understatement, but then I thought maybe this is the dreaded terrible twos, or little boys are rough. So we would redirect him and send him on his way. The redirecting stopped working; it was though he could not stop behaving this way. He had many other strange habits, obsessive behaviors that began to appear. He would eat the little pieces of sheetrock, where he had actually put a hole in the sheetrock, he pulled the wallpaper off and ate it, he pulled up the corners of the carpet and ate the foam underneath it, he ate the rubber lining out of our car doors, he watched videos for hours standing in front of the TV.
What did you do? Who did you go to for help?
First we went to other parents of children. I owned a salon so I had the free advice every hour from women who had “already been through it”. I wanted to believe as they all said, that this is a phase, this is the two’s, little boys do strange things. We then went to professionals, pediatricians, speech therapists, ENT specialist, pediatric specialist, state agencies, MHMR and of course our church for lots and lots of prayer.
What can you tell us about autism?
Autism is a severely handicapping disorder that begins at birth or with in the first two and half years of life. For many years autism occurred in 5 out of 10,000 births, however since the early 1990’s the rate is now calculated at 1 in 150 births. Most autistic children are perfectly normal in appearance, but spend their time in disturbing behaviors, which are marked differently from those of normal children. They may stare into space for hours, throw uncontrollable tantrums, show no interest in people including their parents, and pursue strange repetitive activities with no apparent purpose. They have been described as living in a world of their own. Some autistic children have remarkable giftings in certain areas such as music or mathematics, and all need help.
What was your greatest fear?
My greatest fear was losing my child at five or ten years, or as an adult, to an institution. I would watch the movie Rain Main over and over again and assume that would be the best outcome for my son.
What was a typical day like for you and your family?
A typical day for us would be James up before we woke with a video in and grunting for what he wanted. He would only eat a few foods, several times a day he would throw up to let you know he didn’t want or like something.
Crying, tantrums and fits filled the day from sun up to bedtime. His fits had no beginning and sometimes it felt as if there would be no end. In the spring of 2000, when he was almost 6, he was still in a diaper, on a bottle and only spoke 20 words.
Did school help James?
School did help James; he did much better with a strict structured environment. The opposite of that however, is that it is hard to duplicate that environment at home with a family. School helped James academically, but not emotionally or socially.
Did church help James, or you?
Unfortunately, church did not help James at all. My husband and I were music ministers and would fill-in at churches that were looking for a fulltime staff person. This meant a lot of changes every few months – new locations, new staff, and new strange glares inferring what a bad mother I must be for my baby boy to behave in such a way. Church turned into a place I dreaded and had been such a place of family and belonging before.
What was the turning point for you in this journey?
Having heard the weekly cry of my heart for help for my child, one of my clients recommended a ministry team, a deliverance team, Gospel Revelation Ministries. I didn’t know what deliverance was, but I had no doubt I needed some. I went through personal deliverance and then followed with James in the spring of 2000. I was terrified but they said that God said he was going to be healed, so I stood with their faith. As we brought James into to the room for deliverance, he began to thrash and point to the door to leave, he was ready to go. The team prayed and laid hands on him. They said that the first demonic curse would have to go in Jesus’ name to the dry places. With that, my son reached his hand out and screamed, “come back, come back, come back, come back!!!” He was calling out for the demons that were leaving him. That was the turning point!
So, what was next?
The first thing I did was the most difficult. I changed my mind.
I changed what I believed that God could –and would – do if petitioned. I changed what I thought about the stories in the Bible. I changed my belief in what is available to us, TODAY, by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
When I began to be open to the truth of the scriptures, and not just what someone else said I should believe, or someone else’s interpretation of the scriptures for me, then…the Word of God began to truly be a light unto my path.
That was several years ago. How is James today?
James is wonderful! He is 15 years old going in to the 9th grade. He’s six foot tall and an amazing athlete. God’s promise is that he will restore our minds daily and James has caught up with remarkable speed. He is still about 2 ½ years behind academically, and in three resource classes, but is making up lost ground daily. He is completely healed from the oppression of autism.
What do the professionals say?
Doctors say it is something, maybe higher than what they have in the medical field. It is nothing short of a miracle!
What can families hope for who have children with autism?
Families can believe and stand for their loved one’s healing. Jesus is in the miracle working business. He healed James.
James’ story could be anyone’s story. I was not the “good” Christian, but I stood, no matter what, believing for my child’s healing. Your healing may be through diet, environmental changes, behavioral changes, or even the way James was healed. However it comes, do not waver from the promises of God. Exodus 15 says, “I am the Lord your God who heals all of your diseases.” He is Jehovah Rapha, our God who heals. If it is in His name, it is in His will!
Karen, where can our readers get a copy of your book, or find out how to have you come and speak for their group or organization?
They can find out more about my book and speaking information on my website at KarenMayer.org. I would love to hear from any of you who are dealing with autism in your family or among your friends. I hope you are encouraged by our story – that there is hope, healing, and freedom for your situation.
About the Author
The ups and downs of life have taught Karen Mayer Cunningham that laughter really is the best medicine for what ails you. Her passionate narratives can as easily make you laugh as they can move you to tears. Karen draws many of her stories from her daily life and more specifically from being the mother of a severely autistic son. More than once Karen wondered how she would face the trials that crossed her path. The weight of the responsibility of a handicapped child, became the cross roads of her life. Her story of how God super-naturally altered and prospered her life will uplift and refresh you. Whether she is opening for a Grammy award winning musician, redirecting a sales force or lifting up the hearts of a women's encounter, she cuts through with comedy and clarity; challenging others to take it up a notch or two. Karen knows that through he release of emotions you will internalize her message of possessing the promises and purposes of God, that will take you on the road to truly joyful living.
Karen is a gifted stand-up comic, motivator, and author. She and her husband, Cortney, live in Houston with their three beautiful children, James, Paige, and Caden.