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Mom Tells of Special Bond Between Her Autistic Biological Son and Her Adopted Son

‘It has taught me that people have value, period. Our value is not in doing but in being.’

A mom-of-five is sharing about the heartwarming bond between two of her boys, one adopted, one biological with autism, to prove that blood does not create a family, God does.

Jessica and Greg Hurlbut have been married 18 years and live in Massena, upstate New York, where they were both born and raised. Greg is a lead pastor, and Jessica is a writer and stay-at-home mom. Together, they have three biological children: Jeremiah, 14, Mara, 13, and Jacob, 8. They adopted siblings Isaac, 9, and Emma, 8, after fostering them both as newborn babies.

Isaac has a particularly special bond that “transcends words” with his adoptive brother, Jacob, who has autism.

“They have shared a bedroom since they were babies in cribs,” Jessica told The Epoch Times. “Isaac was always a climber, so some mornings, I would go into the nursery and find him sleeping in Jacob’s crib with him.

“Isaac has always been like another caretaker for Jacob, oftentimes walking him to the bus or making him a sandwich. He has so much compassion for his siblings.”

Epoch Times Photo
Jacob.(Courtesy of Jessica Hurlbut)
Epoch Times Photo
Jacob (L) and Isaac. (Courtesy of Jessica Hurlbut)

The two brothers share a strong bond. Jacob always misses his brother when Isaac sleeps elsewhere. On one such night, Jessica was so moved by Jacob’s sadness that she filmed him and shared the sweet clip on Instagram.

“Isaac had left to spend the night at his uncle’s, and Jacob kept wandering out of his room,” she told The Epoch Times. “I thought he needed to go to the bathroom, or had eaten too much sugar and was unable to fall asleep. This isn’t typical for him.

“At one point, I was stern with him and told him to go to sleep, and he began to cry and say, ‘First Isaac, then sleep.’ I realized he wasn’t trying to misbehave; he was just missing his brother.”

The amazing sibling bond extends beyond Jacob and Isaac to include all five siblings. Jessica even describes Jeremiah, who goes above and beyond to care for his younger siblings with special needs, as “a 30-year-old trapped in a 14-year-old’s body … he has a compassion that most teens don’t.”

Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Jessica Hurlbut)

Both Jacob and Mara have autism. Mara suffered from meltdowns and aggressive behavior as a young child, and can still become overwhelmed by noise and unpredictability, but has improved over time with the help of applied behavior analysis therapy.

Jacob is more withdrawn and almost nonverbal, often “living in his own little world,” but both children have developed invaluable social skills in their close-knit family home.

“Having two biological children on the spectrum has taught me humility,” Jessica said. “I was always a perfectionist growing up … I would have forced those same unrealistic expectations on my children if it wasn’t for the struggles we have overcome with autism.

“It has taught me that people have value, period. Our value is not in doing but in being. I’m forever grateful God has taught me this lesson. I’m more gracious on my other children, and even with the faults and shortcomings of those around me.”

(Courtesy of Jessica Hurlbut)

When Mara was diagnosed with severe autism at 3 years of age, Jessica was devastated. At the time, she had no idea what it meant for her daughter or her family and sank into a deep depression.

“I was unable to leave the house most days to even go to the store or playground because of her severe behaviors,” she recalled. “I had gone from working full time as a youth pastor, to part time, to completely leaving my job and ministry.

“During this time, God continued to ask me this one question: ‘What is one thing you can do now that you couldn’t do before?’ I was like, ‘Nothing! I can’t even leave my house.’ But slowly, my teenage dream to adopt resurfaced.”

Jessica knew she had the time to devote to bonding with a child who was not her blood. She and Greg graduated from a 10-week fostering certification and received their very first placement: a newborn African-American boy.

Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Jessica Hurlbut)

Jessica fell pregnant with Jacob and their family expanded quickly. But Jacob was also diagnosed with severe autism at 3 years of age.

“Doctors told us that because we had a child on the severe end of the spectrum, we would have a 1-in-4 chance of giving birth to another,” said Jessica. “This was a dark season for me, as I could not see any future for my kids or myself. But God has taken me through to the other side, and I now see our struggles as a privilege and opportunity to help so many others.”

In October 2021, Jessica and Greg launched a project, The Full-Spectrum Parent Podcast, the first “faith-based autism parenting podcast in existence.” Listeners can tune in on any podcast platform, or stream through Jessica’s website, where she also posts a weekly devotional to encourage Christian women.

To raise awareness of the desperate need for foster and adoptive families for an estimated 110,000 children in the United States, Jessica also ran 110 miles in 24 hours for National Adoption Day on Nov. 20, 2018, a race that she supports to this day.

In her journey as a mom, Jessica has learned that faith and love are the cornerstones of a happy, thriving family.

“I don’t love my biological children because they have my DNA, or because they have my husband’s freckles or my eyes; I love them because I have invested time with them,” she explained. “The same is true in adoption.

“My adopted children may look and act nothing like me, but my love doesn’t grow because they are a mirror reflection of me, but because my husband and I have made the conscious choice to invest our time and lives for these children.”

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