Wendy Sullivan is currently in her 17th year of home education. The mom of three children, her two grown daughters are neuro-typical. Wendy’s 10-yr old son has a diagnosis of autism. She graduated both of her daughters through the Middle TN Home Education Association, of which she currently serves as the Graduation Coordinator. This year also marks her 17th year as a teacher at Bethel Family Academy, a homeschool supplemental and tutorial program in Nashville, TN.
Wendy is currently working toward a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She plans to continue her education in pursuit of a PhD in Autism Studies.
In 2009, Wendy created Freedom Ministry, a children’s ministry program for special needs children in her local church. Having been involved with numerous research programs, as well as working with The Milieu Teaching Project at Vanderbilt University’s Kennedy Center, Wendy has developed a growing network of professionals from which to draw support. Her experience, creativity, and passion for special needs families provide a wealth of expertise for this program.
Here’s a bit of Wendy’s story in her own words…
The first time I heard the words “Autism Screening” I fell apart. My son was 15 months old. The pediatrician had not even mentioned this as a possibility, so why were these people calling to set up an appointment with me? After double-checking with my doctor’s office, it was simply a mistake; the nurse misread the doctor’s notes. We were actually to go for an “Audio Screening”… huge difference, yes? (Can we get that nurse fired, please?) My state of shock quickly wore off. The pictures in my head of Rain Man went back to the far recesses of my brain and I settled down, so thankful that it had all been an ugly blunder.
But that’s not what God was thinking. Isn’t it fascinating how He works? God knew that the journey we were just starting would take us into the world of the Autism Spectrum, a place where we would land, and grow, and thrive. My sweet boy turned 10 years old this fall. His diagnosis is Moderate Autism, which is a bundle-package including (but not limited to) Sensory Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, ADD, and possibly a side of Bipolar for good measure. I wouldn’t change a thing about him.
JasperTree was birthed out of a desire to encourage and uplift the homeschooling families of children with special needs and learning challenges. Although many churches are slowly turning an eye toward the community of special needs families, there is still a long road ahead. We are a subculture of people who need support, respite, and general understanding of our unique circumstances. We need spiritual family who “get it.” Homeschooling is a tough undertaking for anyone. When we add the element of special needs to the mix, the recipe can be one of amazing joy and complete frustration (all within the scope of 5 minutes!). God has planted JasperTree to meet a growing need. I am blessed that He decided to use my hands and heart to water and nurture the precious treasure of these beautiful children. I look forward to watching them walk in total victory. To God be the glory.