“He’s always going to have to live with you and you’re not going to live forever.” “He can’t be cured because there is no cure for autism.” “What he’s doing now is what he will always be doing”. (What PJ was doing was jumping, flapping his hands and screeching). “He is severely mentally impaired as well as autistic. Nothing can be done.”
These are the comments that I got from doctors as I was trying to find answers for my son. I went from doctor to doctor to doctor, hoping someone would say, “I can work with him.” I never heard these words until I enrolled him in Detroit Public Schools Project Find.
I was making the rounds of the doctors looking for “The One” who would help me. No luck. Other than the psychiatrists who would prescribe his medication, I got nothing except “You’ve got to keep him “centered”. “How do I do that?” I would ask. I never got any answer.
There was one exception. There was one doctor at Lafayette Clinic in Detroit who did help me. She agreed that he could not be “cured”, but she did give me some guidance and instruction. She also gave me sympathy. Lord knows, I sure needed sympathy.
She videotaped PJ’s behavior and we sat and watched it together. She pointed out that he had powers of reasoning and logic and how she could tell this from his behavior. No one had ever said anything positive about my son. She gave me other insights from her observation of his behavior. I still appreciate her and this happened in the late 1970s.
Special Education was a different story from my experiences with the doctors. I sat down with PJ’s teacher to go over an IEP as she told me her goals and objectives for him. The doctors had already told me nothing could be done, so I didn’t really believe she could accomplish anything. Lo and Behold, she accomplished some of her goals, such as toilet training (Whew), less destructive behavior, less abusive behavior, etc.
I know that there are doctors who have done much for people with autism, but my help came from professionals in the field of special education. I wrote this poem for all the professionals in the special education field who helped save my sanity and kept me from becoming autistic myself. This is the first one of the “Special” poems that I wrote.
“Special” Special Educator
Special is as special does / and “special” you shall be / when you care for special people who are not like you and me.
You’re trying to “save the children” / and you’re doing it with grace / and love and dedication / and a smile upon your face.
You all are “special” people / you taught me how to see / to look into the inside / and let the outside be.
Your determination caught me. / I can make it if I try / I am learning to be patient / I am learning not to cry.
I am learning to be positive. / I’ll do what I can do / and if I make some progress / It’s what I learned from you.
I don’t know why you do it. / I don’t know why you Care / But I have to tell you how I feel. / Thank God that you are there.