Monday, December 15, 2014

Meet My Mother Teresa

Dr. Maie in her classroom with my son.

Whenever I have an initial visit with someone who will work with my son who has autism, my head brims with questions. A few stray, clingy apprehensions rise up. Will this person see the intentional humor behind his occasional antics?  (Actually, he can be very funny, and has a great wit). Will they try to understand the deeper message he is trying to communicate that is sometimes masked by repetition and silliness?  Will they try to look beyond the label of autism--peel off the layers, so to speak, so they see the loving, inquisitive person who I know?

The first time I met with Dr. Maie, she immediately quieted any residual fears. As I sat across the table from her, she explained, "I trained as a pediatrician in Egypt, and practiced for a few years. But when I had a child with learning difficulties, I decided to change course. I studied special education in London and in Washington D.C. so that I could understand how to work with my son. You see, I know what it feels like to sit across the table with someone, a stranger, who will work with my child. Believe me, I know how you feel."

She continued, "I know your son can decode any book, but he struggles with comprehension. I have a program that I believe can help him, and I have used it for many years with my students. If we both work together, I think we can make some big strides. I want you to know that I will treat him as my son. When I look across the table at him, I will see my son."

As she spoke, a tear welled in both of our eyes. It was a moment of grace and revelation. I knew I was in the presence of a remarkable person--someone who had experienced intractable pain, but had deliberately transformed her life to alleviate others' suffering. She had forged another trajectory path to understand her son's journey, but in the process had given other children, without a voice, the gift of reading. To know profound loss, and then to give anyway reminds me of a quote by Elizabeth Kubler Ross: "The most beautiful people we (I) have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.  Beautiful people just don't happen."  


Sometimes in my moments of unease or anxiety about my son's autism, I remember the incredible people who have shown understanding and compassion along the way--people who have made all the difference, even if it was only an encouraging word or smile.  I have to admit the autism journey has given me a front row seat to view some amazing, beautiful people. They have not only tutored my son, but have instructed and shaped me as well. The journey is not what I would have ever sought, but I feel so very blessed.




My son during his reading time--learning to "comprehend" more and more all the time.