Lately, our monkey has been surprising us over and over.
For example, I was so nervous I couldn’t sleep for days worrying about how he would react to summer school, different school, different teachers, different bus drivers, etc. Our physical therapist tried to calm me down. She told me, “He will surprise you.” And he did. As soon as the bus arrived, he walked inside and sat down. The fact that the bus aide and the bus driver were people he had never seen, it did not phase him one bit. I warned them that once they drove up to the school, a different building, he may have a meltdown. But he walked right inside. No hassles.
I called the school to talk to his teacher. I was worried he would have a crisis with all of these changes. But his teacher reassured me. He did great. Her rules are that he is to eat in the cafeteria, both breakfast and lunch. He usually eats in his classroom, to avoid the noise and sensor overload. But he did great. No hassles.
Then we received the bad news. One of our beloved speech therapist was leaving, moving to another state. We met her before my son started school. She is one of our first private speech therapists. We were devastated. I called the office to see what our options were. I was told my son was assigned to another therapist, Mr. Manny.
Mr. Manny. My monkey’s first male figure, other than his dad and grandpa.
I remembered our PT’s words, “He will surprise us.”
We were waiting in the waiting room for Mr. Manny to call us. As soon as he did, my monkey walked inside, as he always does. But when he realized we were not going to our usual office, he then saw, really saw, Mr. Manny. He lost it. My monkey went into survival mode. He scratched, kicked, and tried to bite to get away. He did everything he could to escape.
And through it all we could not do a thing, other than watch from the one way mirror.
I felt so lost, so powerless. I kept debating on how to intervene. But I knew intervening would only create Mr. Manny to start all over. In the end, another therapist stepped in. Although my monkey doesn’t know her, he ran to her, for protection. For some reason, my son saw a male therapist and thought he was not safe.
The story I would like to focus on is not my monkey, but Mr. Manny. He didn’t complain. His goal was to calm my son down, protect my son from harm, and try get my son to trust him. He was oblivious of my son’s assaults. He only cared about helping him.
I have always said that we didn’t pick autism. But autism picked us. We love my son and will do anything and everything for him. We will move heaven and earth if need be, for him. But Mr. Manny chose this profession. He chose to help kids like my son. How does one repay the patience, the love, the understanding given to my son after almost an hour of torture? How does one pay back such a treasured gift?
As time passes, I know that my son will be a memory to Mr. Manny. But I hope he understands that to us, Mr. Manny means so much more. He is another person in our support team. He is the first male therapist that had to break my son’s walls down to show him a different way. Even with scratches and bite marks. And although we profusely apologize for my son’s behavior, Mr. Manny would not hear it. He was content my son had calmed down.
We will always treasure this first visit.