Timothy and James McDermott
- The New Normal: From Autism To Awesome -
It was a perfect Monday morning when Christopher McDermott held his newborn son, Timothy, for the very first time. Although the two had met only moments before, a bond of love was already forming. Christopher wanted only the best for his son, and at that moment, he couldn’t imagine anything that would keep him from it.
But any thoughts Christopher had of Timothy being a “perfect” baby quickly faded when he discovered that his child was completely inconsolable. “He’d scream and scream as though he was in pain, but the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with him,” remembers Christopher’s wife, Deborah. As new parents, Christopher and Deborah didn’t know what to expect from a newborn, so they just assumed that most kids were like Timothy.
Aside from his fussiness, Timothy seemed to the McDermotts to be perfectly normal and happy—at least for his first few years. “When Timothy got older, we realized that he wasn’t a happy boy,” says Deborah. “He was very nervous and anxious all the time.” Problems escalated when Timothy was about nine. He had been homeschooled up to that point because the McDermotts were afraid he would be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder if he was sent to school. “He couldn’t even sit still to eat,” recalls Deborah. “He would run around the table, take a mouthful, then run around the table again.”
One of the McDermotts’ greatest fears was that Timothy would grow up alone. They were afraid for when he grew older, when they would no longer be there to protect or care for him. Christopher and Deborah decided it would be good for Timothy to have a sibling. Even Timothy thought that having a little brother was a great idea—until he had one.
Baby James, like Timothy, proved to be a difficult baby; yet, unlike Timothy, he was happy: “We suddenly realized how different it was to have a child who was bubbly and would look people in the eye,” says Christopher. But Deborah knew she wouldn’t be able to continue to homeschool Timothy and take care of James as well. Educating Timothy was very cumbersome, as each week, Deborah felt as though she had to start completely over with what she had just taught him the week before. “But yet,” says Deborah, “Timothy had the ability to remember things he’d learn from his video or computer games…. In fact, he would discover mistakes that the Star Wars games made with regards to the languages on the different planets. He got very indignant that they were wrong…. Everything had to be just so with him.”
Matters became worse for Timothy after James arrived, as his parents had less time to devote to him. The McDermotts enrolled him in a small, specialized school, which they thought could help him. Instead, it only magnified his problems. Timothy began having nightmares about drowning, he lost weight, and he stopped growing. He then started having “storms,” where insignificant issues would cause him to fall to pieces.
These storms led him into dangerous behavior, such as headbutting doors or the floor, or punching himself as a result of distress. Being in public became highly stressful for Timothy, and he was very particular about his food and how it was served. He also had no coordination, which caused simple things like writing to be a major challenge. The McDermotts had no choice but to take Timothy out of school and seek professional help.
While Timothy’s condition deteriorated, James began having his own problems when he was about eighteen months old: “James always had a few odd things [about him], but not enough to cause concern,” recalls Deborah. “But then he stopped talking and communicating, and then he stopped wanting people to look at him…he became bothered with lights, and then he stopped eating his food [if it wasn’t the perfect texture and just right].”
At the suggestion of Timothy’s therapist, the McDermotts also had James evaluated. He was diagnosed as having developmental delays and behavioral issues, along with obvious impairments that are on the autistic spectrum. At this point, Timothy had already been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, and now James had the possibility of the same diagnosis. Christopher and Deborah came face to face with the reality that, against all odds, they had two children with serious disabilities.
Deborah had her own challenges to confront during this time as well. Christopher took a new job, which had him traveling quite often, and because she focused on her kids 24/7, she had no circle of friends or any support system in place. She had to walk through this dark valley alone. But Deborah soon discovered that it’s during her darkest moments that God’s love and grace shine the brightest.
“One day when I was really down, I turned on Christian programming on television,” recalls Deborah. “Mothers were talking about their kids and proudly showing off their pictures…. And it just hit me, what I was really experiencing with my own family. I felt so alone and deserted. I yelled out to God, ‘Why don’t You help us?’ I had been asking Him to help for years and I was angry. I believed it was God’s fault because I had been taught that He was sovereign. I said, ‘I love my boys so much, and You’re supposed to love them more than me….’ I told Him, ‘I would die for my boys.’ He said, ‘I already did.’ I was so stunned that I just shut up.”
Deborah stared into the fireplace as she continued her conversation with God: “You did die, but what difference does it make in our situation?” God simply replied, “I’ll heal your sons.” Deborah’s faith leapt, and in her heart, she immediately believed that her sons would be okay. “I remember thinking, Yes, He’ll heal them. That’s why He died, so He could heal them.” As Deborah continued to unconsciously gaze at the flickering flames, God melted away her tears, her pain, and years’ worth of anxiety. From that moment, the terror that had stalked her day and night completely vanished.
Although Deborah clung to God’s words, she still needed help. One day as she was praying, her mother, who lives several hours away, phoned to tell her to turn on the Gospel Truth. She immediately tuned in and watched the story of Hannah Terradez, whom God miraculously healed of a life-threatening disease. “As I watched that day, faith rose inside of me,” recalls Deborah. “I thought, Yes, Andrew’s talking about my God!” Christopher looked up Andrew Wommack Ministries (AWM) on the internet and, to the McDermotts’ surprise, discovered that Andrew would be in Walsall—a two-hour drive away—in two weeks.
Over the next couple of days, Deborah and Christopher diligently researched both AWM and Hannah. They were blessed and amazed by what they learned, and knew in their hearts that this was God’s answer to their cry for help. But they also knew that it would take a miracle just to get to Walsall.
Timothy couldn’t last more than fifteen minutes in a car without getting severely nauseous. James had never even been in a car for more than half an hour. Even in that short time, he screamed and cried continuously. Staying in a hotel would present a whole new set of challenges that came with being away from routine and familiar surroundings. But the McDermotts knew they had to get to the meeting.
They began watching Andrew every day, bought as many books as possible, and downloaded teachings from www.awmi.net. Their faith grew to believe God for what He said they already had. Deborah’s next step was to call Andrew Wommack Ministries of Europe and alert them to their situation. “The woman I spoke with asked me, ‘What can you believe for?’ I told her, ‘I think we can get there, but I’m not sure I can exercise my faith enough to get into the building.’ She said, ‘If you can’t get them out of the car, we’ll send a prayer team to you.’ Then she prayed in a way that I had never heard before. She was authoritative and thanked God that it was already done. I hung up and thought, This is really going to happen.”
The two weeks leading up to the trip tested the McDermotts’ faith to its limits. Timothy cried with anxiety whenever the trip was mentioned, and when the day came to go, he physically fought not to get into the car. But Deborah recited to God His promise and refused to back down. As the family drove, both boys settled in and became calm—even cheerful. The miraculous was already happening.
As an additional step of faith, once the McDermotts arrived at their hotel, they ate next door at the same KFC where Hannah ate right after God healed her. Both boys—who, for their entire lives, were not only severely restricted with what they ate but also had to have their food prepared in particular ways—ate their fill of popcorn chicken and fries. God continued to answer the family’s prayers with one miracle after another to prove He was fully in control of their situation.
During a break at the meeting, Deborah and Christopher waited in line with their sons so Andrew could pray for them. The line was long, and before their turn came, Andrew announced that it was time to return to their seats. Completely deflated, Deborah began weeping. She couldn’t leave without Andrew praying for them. Just then, someone grabbed her arm and thrust her right in front of Andrew. That someone was Paul Flanagan, director of Charis Bible College (CBC) West Midlands.
“Deborah quickly told Andrew our situation,” says Christopher, “and without hesitation, he simply rebuked autism and commanded healing into our boys. Then he blessed us as a family and thanked God that we would fulfill God’s plan for our lives. He then said something we will never forget: He told us that we were now the parents of normal, healthy children.”
“I remember hearing that as if the whole world went quiet, and it was just these words hanging there,” adds Deborah. “For me, it was Jesus talking to me, and it was a promise. I knew Andrew was right. We left and went to McDonald’s, where the boys ate like I’ve never seen them eat before.”
From the first day the McDermotts arrived home, the transformation they witnessed in James and Timothy was remarkable. That night, the entire family experienced their first night of peaceful sleep since the day James was born—five years earlier.
Deborah and Christopher watched in awe of God’s power as James continued to sleep through the night, month after month and year after year. The same miraculous change occurred in Timothy. “It was as if Timothy was covered in scales of autism,” says Christopher, “and over time, those scales were peeled away to reveal the amazing boy that he is today.”
Deborah attributes the miraculous changes in her boys to God’s word of healing that He spoke to her and to Andrew’s teaching, which helped her rightly understand God’s will for healing, as well as kept her faith strong during times of doubt. “When I watched Andrew, he seemed to be talking about the God that I knew…not the other one that everyone else seems to talk about,” explains Deborah. “I was confused about a lot of other teachings regarding faith and the power of words and understanding the difference between works and grace.
“I felt that God led me to Andrew’s teachings so He could teach me what I needed to know. I listened only to Andrew for nearly six months, and in that time, my questions were answered. The teachings that helped me most were Spirit, Soul & Body, You’ve Already Got It!, and God Wants You Well. Through these, I finally understood how I had been wrongly taught about the sovereignty of God.” Deborah realizes that if she had continued believing incorrectly, her boys would not be healed today, because she would’ve thought that their condition was God’s will for them.
Once Timothy and James were healed, the McDermotts took them both back to their psychologists for another evaluation. The new diagnosis is that Timothy is a “neurodevelopmentally typical young man, and the label of Asperger’s syndrome is not applicable.” He was discharged from the doctor’s care. Likewise, James’s official report now reads, “…it is clear there has been significant progress over time in all areas associated with the triad of impairment with autism. As a result, the label Autism Spectrum Disorder is no longer appropriate for James and should be removed from any documentation in the future that relates to him.”
Deborah and Timothy have begun the CBC correspondence course together and are hoping to one day attend CBC as full-time students. “From there, we’ll see where the Lord guides us,” says Deborah. “But for now, we are gaining a solid foundation through the correspondence course.”
The McDermotts’ present reality and hopes for the future are so far removed from how life used to be when Timothy and James were young children. Deborah remembers when she could only imagine a life of normalcy: “I used to dream about all four of us going out to dinner and not worrying about anything…just like a normal family. I used to dream about going to the cinema and eating popcorn and watching a movie together. We had never done these things before. But, just as I had imagined, we went to the cinema, and we bought the popcorn. We are a normal family, and I am the mother of normal, healthy children—just like Andrew said.”