Monday, February 12, 2007

Special Needs

I have always seen fishing for steelhead as one of my special needs. It may become even more so, now, precisely because I will likely get to do it less than ever; I will have to resign myself to watching 'perfect' days, flash into view and then forever out of sight.

One of my sons, Isaac, has been enrolled in an early intervention program for children with autism. And although the doctors and therapists don't yet offer to solidify their opinion with an official diagnosis, because he's too young (13 months) they all agree that the telltale signs are present. But to Laura and I, who see him every day, and every day watch his brother perform all the feats of a normal child, this announcement is "as the footsteps of doom," foreseen and yet long feared.

I can't offer even the barest smattering of what goes through a parent's mind and heart, when this kind of news is delivered. Because no matter how anticipated it was, we are suddenly bereft of our denial. My first thoughts were only for Isaac, that this is like a death; the person we hoped he would become, has been somehow removed from his future. And despite the therapies (physio, floor play etc), wich are already showing results, his lot in life will never be easy and there may be much that he may never understand, that we lucky ones take for granted. Having a sweetheart, scoring a goal, skipping a stone over the surface of a lake, wading through a shallow run in May-time. My fears no doubt only make this worse, because Isaac is going to be Isaac no matter what, and all of us (Samuel included) are still engaged in learning who that will be. For example, Bill Gates is said to be mildly autistic (Asperger's Syndrome) although he has never formally been diagnosed. Who knows?

Not knowing is possibly the most difficult part. Perhaps (at the extreme risk of being perceived as sexist: Men are from Mars) by virtue of being male, I know that no matter how hard things get, and how exhausting, I will have my temporary single-minded testosteronic escapes; watching a Leafs game, fishing in the early morning, sunday night rec-league hockey. But I see no such escape for Laura; who is at the base of everything to do with Isaac, and for whom he reaches out night after night, when he wakes up howling - for what reason, we don't always know. She doesn't want a spa day, or new clothes. No flowers for valentines, no gifts; all she wants for all the world is that her little boy be alright. I see her thrust her entire being into this enterprise, and I marvel that she hasn't crumbled under the weight of it. All I can do is attend to her needs to the best of my limited abilities, like a doctor at the uneasy dreamer's bedside, wiping the brow and now and then enticing a small sip of clear water; but the fight is going on inside, her own solitary side of the fight.

But enough of all this joyful talk!

Enter Stacey's blog "The Willowjak Boys" which was referred to us by the friend of a friend (if Stacey is reading this, Nicole told Gillian who told us :). It's a beautiful and informative blog, which tells the story of their family but also contains helpful information and, my favourite so far, an extremely touching, wonderful, awe-inspiring clip about Rick and Dick Hoyt. The video is about a father and son, who enter marathons and triathlons together. The son is paraplegic from birth, and so his dad tows him, and pushes him along; all because at one point the son had expressed that taking part in this sort of activity made him feel free. You can tell by his expression, in the video, that this is true. You can read about it here. Thanks to Stacey for digging it all up and posting it on her blog!