Tomorrow is my last day with a little boy I've been working with for about three months. I've spent all day with him five days a week. It's a long time and a lot of time. He's my little amigo, face biting and all. Tomorrow is going to be hard.
Monday I'm starting a new position with my company. I'm excited, nervous, and overwhelmed because deep inside I'm not as confident as I appear in interviews about my abilities. I'm scared I won't do a good job - that I'll fail my families, my kids, my employers, and myself.
But I got to thinking about what keeps me pushing forward in this field even though I'm terrified I'll be out of my depth. I started searching my mind and heart when a friend sent this post to me and I proceeded to dissolve into a tear puddle.
What keeps me passionate, patient, understanding, loving, and persistent in the special needs / autism field?
Tonight I started treating a temporary client. He's about 5 and is probably in the "moderate-severe" range on the spectrum. I sat down with his mom to introduce myself and her story came spilling out.
She came to America after she had her son so that she could go to school, live full time with her husband, and make a new life for them all. Her one year old son was bright, responsive, talkative, and friendly. She said she had the perfect family, perfect life.
Then one day the lights went out.
::She snapped her fingers to emphasize the silence afterward::
Her son suddenly stopped responding when she came in the room. He would stare at seemingly uninteresting objects for hours. His vocabulary vanished. His motor and adaptive skills regressed severely. He no longer looked at other children with any interest if at all. He ignored his toys and instead spent his time flicking paper back and forth with the tips of his fingers.
One day her son had bright sunshine in his face and the next...darkness. Nothing. No glimmer of recognition. No awareness of her presence. She was devastated.
She took her 18 month old son to her pediatrician. "Stop worrying so much," he said, "this is just a speech delay - a phase: he'll grow out of it."
She waited a little longer, then on a trip to see her family in Asia, she took her son to a renowned pediatrician there: her child was diagnosed with Autism.
She went on to explain to me some other trials she's had since that time. How hard it is to manage graduate school, a job, a home, and her son's therapy. How she can't go anywhere because he cannot handle social situations and other people look at them with disdain and ignorance. How she just wants him to be the best be can be but has no idea how to do what he needs to get there.
It was all I could do not to run over and hug her. You know, one of those inane things you do when you can't think of anything else but you just want to make the hurt stop. The disheartening part is: she is far from being alone. There are thousands of parents who share her loss, helplessness, frustration, and fear for their children with autism. There are also thousands of parents who share the fierce love she has for her child. A love that is willing to sacrifice anything so that he can have the chance at life in our world.
And then there are people like me who just want to help the best we can.
Stories like that are the reason I do this.
"Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it."
-- Mother Teresa
bethany lives in san francisco with her husband marc.
Marc was born in Florida and lived most of his life in Greenville, SC. Bethany was born in Georgia and lived in Texas for 17 years before moving to South Carolina where she met Marc while working at a church camp. They were married in 2007.
you can follow bethany on Twitter: @bhthomps.
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving." - Albert Einstein
"You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore." - Christopher Columbus
"We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us." - E.M. Forster
Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes. - Henry David Thoreau