A Family Update

A Family Update {November 2017}

Many of you have kindly asked how our oldest son, Jack, and our family are doing. So, I want to give an update. For our new friends in the WML community, Jack is our amazing eight-year-old boy. He has a passion for Star Wars, loves to read, and is an all-around love bug with a huge heart. He inspired the creation of this blog, the founding of the Wonderfully Made Living Facebook community, and my work as a consultant for special needs parents and teachers. He’s a pretty inspiring little guy!


Jack was diagnosed with autism when he was 3.5 years old. About a year ago, he was diagnosed with PANDAS/PANS, in addition to autism.

“PANS (Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome) is when an infectious trigger, environmental factors, and other possible triggers create a misdirected immune response that results in inflammation on a child’s brain. In turn, the child quickly begins to exhibit life changing symptoms such as OCD, severe restrictive eating, anxiety, tics, personality changes, decline in math and handwriting abilities, sensory sensitivities, and more.” Learn more here: PANDAS/PANS Network 

Anytime Jack gets sick with anything from the common cold to pneumonia he has a PANDAS/PANS flare up. As you can imagine, this is quite often in an elementary age little boy. When illness, and therefore these flare ups happen, Jack is overwhelmed by OCD, anxiety attacks, and, of course, the illness his body is fighting on top of the PANDAS/PANS. It can take weeks for him to recover from something as simple as the common cold.


Over the course of the past month all three of our children have been battling strep, stomach viruses, hand foot & mouth, and colds. Jeff and I have had the flu for several days. And we are doing our best to work and care for the kids and ourselves. In the midst this, Jack developed a PANDAS/PANS flare up about a month ago and has been progressively worsening each week.

So far, the treatment plan that was successful in the past is no longer working and we have to try a new treatment plan. But we don’t know what that new treatment plan is yet. We visited his neurologist today who believes, as we do, that this latest attack was brought on by a stomach virus, which seems to be the biggest trigger for Jack. We have follow up appointments scheduled with GI and a PANDAS/PANS specialist in the next two weeks, and hope both will give us some new action steps to take.

In the meantime, Jack is home from school and we are doing our best to balance his needs with his siblings’ and everything else that comes with being working parents, new homeowners, and…well, people. 

A few closing thoughts

Several of you have asked why I haven’t shared about him more openly in the past few months and I want to speak to that. My main answer is that I want to be respectful of him. Jack is a person who happens to have autism spectrum disorder and a pediatric neuropsychiatric syndrome. PANDAS/PANS is a part of him, not all of him. But many of the behaviors that present when PANDAS/PANS is triggered are upsetting, and out of the deepest respect for Jack, I will continue to keep his personhood at the heart of what I share.

I also want to do my best to write from a place of healing and with a sense of knowing that there is a higher purpose to what we are going through, rather than a place of fear, worry, or anger. For much of the past year, though, I’ve felt afraid, worried, and angry. I’ve had weeks when all I could do was focus on the moment in front of me. And then the next moment and the next.

With all of that said, I also want others to understand this journey is ongoing. It’s hard, wearing, and heartbreaking. And we’re still putting one foot in front of the other, searching for answers and supports for our son, every day. Sometimes it feels like we’re still battling the same PANDAS/PANS attack from a year ago, even though there have been spurts of health and calm in between, because there have been so many flare ups it can be hard to tell when one ends and another begins. 

Family first

Finally, we have two more children who have hearts and hurts that we must always have at the front of our minds, as well. They are people, too. They have wants, needs, and desires that we must balance. Jeff and I want each of our children to know every day that they are wholly and equally loved. This requires time, intentionality, and a whole lot of grace.

So, friends, that’s where we are today. We’re messy. Imperfect. Sometimes distant when we don’t mean to be. And doing all we can to pour our hearts into one another.

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God bless you Katie and Jeff. Always praying for your family.


    Thank you, Diane! We appreciate your prayers so much!


Katie, I have always seen a family blessed with a beautiful child who has so much to give and offer. Now that family has expanded and he has blossomed despite what obstacles he faces. You and Jeff are amazing parents. Blessings to all in your house, love and hugs!k


    Oh Stacia thank you! <3 We appreciate your ongoing love and support so much!

Jim Anderson

Hi, Katie: I only just saw this update of yours since Jeff provided the link via Facebook. I have not had the privilege of meeting you or Jack and the rest of your family, but I have been friends with (and once his UGA advisor) to Jeff for more than a decade, and we have long kept in touch, as you know. I want to thank you for the honesty you bring to these posts, and to letting me (and many others I am sure) — who care very much about your family — know a little of what you and Jeff are facing. You both deserve infinite praise. You are absolutely correct to keep positive: Jack’s problems can be overcome, I have faith, but only through the love and support you, his amazing parents, are giving and continue to give him. He will make it through; I know that must be an article of faith for you. I can only say, I know what a completely remarkable guy Jeff is and always has been; clearly you are in every way equally astounding and remarkable. Please know I am praying for you and all your family, every day, and have the greatest respect for you both and for all you are doing for Jack and for all your children. Sincerely, Jim Anderson


    Jim, I know I will return to this kind comment again and again when I need a boost. I can’t thank you enough for your friendship and support over the years! It means so much to us!

      Jim Anderson

      Katie: I said only what is due to you both, but I’m very pleased if it provided a boost or ray of sunshine. You and Jeff are truly amazing people; it’s my privilege to be your friend. Please give Jeff my best, as always :-). JIM


        I certainly will! Our sincerest thanks, Jim <3


Katie, I’m so sorry to hear that Jack has been struggling with PANDAS/PANS :( Sounds like your family has been faced with some really trying times lately. Please know we’re thinking of you and celebrating your family-first approach!!


    Thank you, Evie <3 I appreciate your support so much!