I’m a lawyer. Not that I get to practice a lot of law these days. But, the cases I do work on involve very sad, irreversible circumstances that bear no recounting here. My work is heart wrenching and involves a lot of detail. I must perform research, conduct interviews formal and informal, and review a lot of documents.
This week will be one in which I must take testimony from witnesses, two days in a row, in a case involving the death of two young women. There will be at least three attorneys and a court reporter present, in addition to the witnesses. The witnesses have important information that requires analysis. The case has been going on for over two years. Taking testimony is not a problem now. It was different two years ago.
My husband and I practice law together. I don’t talk about it much here because that is not what this blog is about. Nevertheless, this background is important to the gist of this story about my son, the star of this blog.
We practice law in a small brick building that belongs to us in a suburb of the State Capitol. Because the small building in which we practice is ours, we are very fortunate to have set up a room for our son to work with his therapists at our office. While I attempt to perform my law job duties during the week, my son is receiving therapy in our office. But three years ago, there were no therapists. There was a room for my son. There was a babysitter. And there was an undiagnosed 2.5 year old boy.
The babysitter was new. She had been there no more than a week. We had a young male, associate attorney working with us. He had been there quite some time and had known my son since he was born. I had just begun this case and a nurse was scheduled to give testimony in my office.
The conference room, in which we normally take testimony was in use by my husband who had unfortunately scheduled a deposition for the same day and time in a different case. This meant that I had to take the testimony in my office. My office was next to my son’s room. Not good.
For the first 2.5 years of his life, my son had not been locked out of any room I was in. He had not yet been diagnosed and I was clueless that he was anything other than my little boy. Since he had the sitter, I thought all would be fine. Looking back on that day, I feel horrible now. Hell, I felt horrible then, but I did not understand what my son was going through like I do now. So now, I feel worse.
It was me, my client (a very understanding woman), the nurse witness, opposing counsel and the court reporter. It began slowly and quietly. Within the first five minutes of the deposition, I could hear my son in the hallway calling out for me. I knew the babysitter had taken him back to his room because I heard his protests all the way.
As the questioning continued, my son’s calling out turned to yelling. I tried to ignore it. The yelling then escalated to escape and an attempt to open my closed door. The young associate intervened at this point and I could hear both the babysitter and the associate trying to calm my son and take him away from the door.
I kept apologizing to everyone in the room. They were all polite. Truth be told, I’m sure they felt it was completely inappropriate for my son to be in this office setting. Truth be told, I really did not care what they thought. I knew in my gut, I had to have him there. I just did not know why.
The testimony was not useful. In the scheme of things, it ended quickly and without either side getting any useful information. When everyone had gone, my son was still in a full breakdown. It took quite a while to calm him down.
I remember being angry. Angry that I was the only one who could calm this little person. Angry that I did not know why my child needed me with such a fierceness. Fear that he could break down so severely when I was just behind a door in the next room. I questioned what I had done wrong to lead us to the point where he could not survive for an hour with me behind that closed door.
Thinking back on it now, I understand. I knew my son’s needs. He did not have to say a word and I knew. His lack of communication skills, his sensitivity to sound were all things from which he could run to me for comfort. Things a brand new babysitter and the young, male associate with no children would never understand. Even without the diagnosis, these were things only I knew.
If I could go through a time warp and talk to myself back in those days, I would have told the slightly younger me that it would get better. My son would learn ways to cope. He would learn to do without me in the room for hours at a time. He would accept new people and follow their instructions. I would tell my younger self to get him diagnosed. I did not know the word autism then.
I have to smile now. He has come so very, very far. I can never even begin to find the words to express the gratitude I have for Dr. Ivar Lovaas (may he rest in peace) who I had never heard of and never met. He created the behavioral therapy method that has taught my son so very, very much. It sounds so contrived but truly, it was a miracle that I found Dr. Gregory Buch who provides the behavioral therapy my son receives.
Since my little guy began behavioral therapy late last July, I can go into those depositions this week with no worry. What used to scare me sick, his emotional breakdowns and interruptions, are much fewer and far between. My son now tolerates the closed doors. He works with his therapists who understand him. They know his needs. They know how to stop his outbursts and redirect his attention and focus.
I thank God that I live in a day and age that allows my son the advances of behavioral therapy research. I am so very grateful. Autism is hard. Learning is hard. But the fruits of the learning and the hours and hours of therapy are priceless and magnificent.
And so, I want to take a moment, so close in time to Autism Sunday, a national day of prayer for autism and Aspergers, to say thank you to Gregory Buch and his team, Erina, Brittany, Robyn, Maddie, Cara and especially to Trista, our angel. We love you, each and every one.