Saturday, April 12, 2008

Just One More Step

In general, I find autism conferences uncomfortable. Tearing up usually happens to me at those conferences, and I'd rather do that at home. There always seems to be something going on at the time and some word spoken, which serves as a trigger for accidental public emotional response. This explains why I waited until the very last minute to decide about today's Applied Behavioral Analysis Conference.But attend I did.

The tears happened en-route this time, as soon as I backed out of the garage.

That's when the light of day hit my son's blue striped sheets and towels, piled high next to me on the passenger seat. It suddenly became real that I was hemmed in on all sides and behind by everything Caleb owns. I would sit in a room and dwell on how to help him with behavioral issues, while nagged by the painful reality that in three days he will move one and a half hours away—to Brenham State School.

What should I be thinking right now, I thought. Why am I going to a conference today anyway? Like the experts are going to let me visit while they adjust his long list of mind altering drugs? Like I'm going to run up to Brenham everyday and guide him through all I learn—the same stuff I've been "learning" since he was four?

The conference was ten minutes from my house. Ample time for a full-fledged breakdown.

Surprisingly enough, the ABA Conference turned out to be a pleasant experience. Sitting in the meeting room I noticed a few emotional faces. Especially the mom behind me, at lunch, when I shared the story of Caleb's communication breakthrough after one year of no words. Thankfully, hers were tears of hope.

Remembering the story made me feel shored up for coming change. After encouraging someone else with a Caleb experience I wondered if that was the main reason for my attendance at the conference. Could it be, after all those years of hiding out that I may actually have lent a helping hand to another mom in the same boat?

I told about Caleb emphatically demanding that he be removed from a cold lake where we swam when he was six years old. Caleb said, "Get me out of here" and that was the end of his horrifying silence. It was a miracle.

Of course there was a plan set in motion after that day. No more giving Caleb juice when he reached and did not attempt to ask. No more allowing his big brother and sister to fetch his every assumed whim. Caleb had words inside and we all knew it. Bit by tiny bit, his vocabulary returned that year. It was hard to break old habits, but this was best for Caleb, so we did as the school speech therapist suggested.

"That is what we are going to try now," the mother of a non-verbal six-year-old boy said, in response to the story. She smiled through beautiful wet eyes and seemed shored up herself. She said, "Good Luck" and so did I, because that's something kind strangers say.

But honestly I know it’s God we need, and education, and one another. All this together makes hope.May you find hope today. If you are in pain, don't hide; Put your car in gear and face the light of day. Life's most difficult journeys can turn out to be the most rewarding.


nettie-fudge said...

Isn't it amazing how things turn out? You didn't want to go to the conference, but did. Then the Lord blessed you and those around you for it. Thanks for keeping us informed and I'm so glad the Lord brought you into my life at such a time as this.


Jonesy said...

I think I can kind of remember that time at the lake. I don't think it occurred to me at the time how strange it was that Caleb didn't speak. I remember when we started getting Caleb to ask for things before we'd give him anything. That was hard.