Do you ever see something beautiful in nature; and you want to touch it but know that you shouldn’t? You have this unnatural need to feel it between your fingers, smell it, search it recklessly with your eyes as your fingers delve into its mysteries. But you know that you shouldn’t. Take for example, this beautiful tiger (that is pictured above). She was at the Sacramento Zoo for many years, bared many cubs, and was living quite happily. Her mate died from complications due to cancer. The zookeepers decided to find her a new mate. They took the necessary precautions and introduced the two of them. She was killed almost instantly when he attacked her. Everyone was left wondering, what happened? They had waited until the two had shown the proper signs of acceptance. She was in heat, ready for his approval. And yet, he attacked her almost instantly and she died quickly from it.
This makes me wonder about the things we do to “improve” the lives of those with an over abundance of awesomeness, otherwise known as “special needs.” For example: Little Man started ABA therapy. He started it Tuesday of last week, and had it again Wednesday, but that was it because of the holiday weekend (Thanksgiving). Since he has a nap from 11:30 until 1:45 (when we have to go get my daughter from school) they have to cut his ABA sessions in half. And since the therapist already has a little man to help in the afternoons, she can only see my Little Man in the mornings. A new therapist will be added to the schedule as soon as they find another one to fill the slot. But anyway. The first two days, last week, were for getting to know him and filling out paperwork. Yesterday was officially his first day of therapy, but the ABA person was writing out a plan for the therapist, so she spent a lot of time playing with him, but not much ABA happened. Technically, it would mean today was the first true day of therapy for him.
Little Man is none-verbal. He doesn’t say “mama” “dada” or any other sounds. He doesn’t scream, he rarely cries, and is generally a very calm and loving little boy. That is, until today. I sat with the therapist and played, taught, and pushed his intellectual boundaries, right beside the ABA therapist and the play therapist (who was there for half an hour today, like all Tuesdays). He came to me and sat in my lap when he was clearly done playing with the 3 of us and following our directions. I held him, comforted him, told him I understood, and that it was time for a break. As soon as the play therapist had left, I needed to make his lunch. The ABA therapist played with him, one of his favorite games (chase) and I made his lunch. I put it on the table and called him over. He yelled and put out his hand to say no, only; he was motioning at her. She sat down at the table and I tried to get him to sit and eat. He screamed and tried to get out of his seat. He has never done that before.
I put his lunch on the couch, like I usually do when he signs that he doesn’t want to be at the table anymore. He continued to scream and reached up for me. He doesn’t usually reach up for me. He motioned again “no” toward her, so I took him into the living room. He screamed at the top of his lungs, banged his head against the couch, hit the couch with both hands, looked up at me, and cried. He has NEVER done anything like this before. I saw a side of him that most people connect with Autism, but one I had never witnessed from him. It was an absolute explosion of emotions. He was so distraught, sad, frustrated, angry, tired, and I don’t even know what else, that he exploded in all of the physical ways he could muster. I wasn’t angry. I was blown away with complete sadness. I had done this to him. I brought a stranger into our home. I had turned over his world. I allowed her to “help” and even helped her do it. This, of course, is all for his own benefit. Right?
How do we know the psychological effects that this has on our little ones? The research shows that ABA therapy is effective in curbing “unwanted” behaviors and correcting them into “wanted behaviors.” But to what cost? Will he talk someday? Maybe with words, maybe with signs, maybe with a tablet. Will he say “thanks mom for making it impossible for me to rest in my place of comfort. I appreciate the fact that I can communicate with you.” Will he remember how hard all of this was, or is he young enough that he won’t remember? I have no idea. I’m left wondering. I wonder if this will really help him. I’m left wondering if he will ever be able to live on his own because of this therapy, or if he will be home with us forever. I’m left wondering if he will be able t have a “normal” life after all this. Is all of this torture going to be worth it? Or am I ruining the last few precious days of him being my little baby? Will he still look to me to make things right? Will he hate me and blame me for all of this? I wish I knew.
I saw a side of him today that I never want to see again. I never want to see him so utterly filled with desperation that he becomes violent towards himself. I never want to see that desperation in his eyes; looking to me to make things right, when I have no idea how to. But guess what? We get to do it all again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. And someday soon; there may be a therapist in the evenings as well. Because the psychologist and the ABA therapist are recommending 30 hours a week. And I am left wondering; How much of my baby boy will there be left over, after all this is said and done? How much of our bond will be spared? Will there be a shred of my sweet Little Man left over? Will he still look to me for comfort? Will he still wish to play with me? I don’t know. The three words I have grown to loath and know all to well; I DON’T KNOW.