Autism Treatment Center of America®
I_want_this_for_my_Son

A Miracle To Believe In

Chapter 1 Continued

FRIDAY - The Fifth Day

Although we used our last day to continue observing and exploring, we also reviewed and embraced the events of the past week. The visible movement had been dramatic. The totally withdrawn and inner-focused little boy now sat on our laps and giggled in our faces. The child who never pursued anything or expressed his wants now found hidden objects and brought containers of juice and water to people in order to solicit their assistance. The staring, hand-flapping Robertito deviated from his well-entrenched patterns to hold cups and stack blocks. Though he continued to retain old behaviors, most of the time, his non-distractible commitment to self-stimulating activities, such as hand-flapping and rocking, had dwindled. Robertito had taken huge steps across the bridge, to meet us in a way that he had never done before in his life.

In this day's session, Francisca began by handing the insertion cups to her son. He turned them in front of his eyes then tossed them across the room. Smiling, she gathered the plastic containers and inserted one into the other. Robertito, flapping slightly, watched from the corner of his eye. Quite often, he looked directly at his mother. She gave him the cups again. Robertito dropped them to the floor. They continued this exchange for almost twenty minutes with Francisca talking and demonstrating how one cup fit into another.

Roby served lunch in the usual manner; some pieces placed and others hidden around the room. They positioned the liquids within Robertito's easy reach. Their son brought the juice can to his father. "Diga-me, Robertito. Ju. Ju," Roby repeated as he filled the glass. The little boy sat on the floor and rocked from side to side after the meal. Roby joined him. They both smiled ... at each other.

Although the conversations were kept hushed and subdued, we noticed Robertito's growing tolerance for louder sounds. He also made a definite statement about his interest in music by fingering the tape recorder until Francisca switched it on.

We ended the session in mid-afternoon and gathered in the living room. Bryn arrived minutes later from school. She kissed everyone in the room. Jaime blushed, flattered by her affection. Thea and Raun entered the house noisily. Within seconds, our son ran to Robertito and stroked his cheeks gently. Laughter bubbled throughout the room in response to Raun's infectious giggle.

Although Jaime still translated the conversation, we all talked together easily, intimately. With Thea on my lap, with Raun touching Robertito, with Bryn sitting ladylike beside Roby, with Suzi smiling warmly at Francisca, we had become, for these moments, a loving family of people sharing and enjoying one another.

After playing a game of "thumbs" with my son, I ushered the children into the den beside the kitchen. Bryn and Thea took charge of Robertito authoritatively. Returning to the living room, I smiled at Roby and Francisca, who had busily composed an elaborate list, complete with numbers and indentations. Reflections of a college outline.

"Why the list?" I asked.

"So we make sure we remember," Roby asserted.

"What is there to remember?

Roby laughed. "Bears, are you serious?"

"Uh-huh."

"All the games we have established with Robertito, things to watch for, cues to catalogue."

"Is that all?" I asked.

"Yes, that is all," Roby said.

"How come you don't have to make lists of all the things we explored during our long evening sessions?"

"Those are part of us," he answered.

"Are you saying what we did with Robertito isn't part of you?" I questioned.

Grinning broadly, he said, "I ... I guess go."

"Do you believe that?"

"No, I don't," he said. "Everything we've done here has become part of us." Roby put his pencil down.

"Roby, you can still make your list. I only wanted to clarify why you did it. Sometimes we can observe ourselves doing precisely the same behavior - one time from unhappiness, another time from our good feelings."

I took Suzi's hand and looked into her bright eyes, then turned back to Roby and Francisca. "The reason I raised the questions about the list is because I want each of you to know you are your own best expert on yourself and your situation. Don't see the list as a guide to the future; at best, its only a record of the past. If Suzi and I suggested turning left and, tomorrow it seemed apparent to you to turn right, then trust yourself and turn right."

"There aren't any rules of conduct," Suzi interjected. "Only your choices, your decisions. And you can know better than anyone else, including us, what there is for you to do."

"I'd like to pose one more question, specifically to you, Francisca. It's one I've asked you almost every day. How would you feel if Robertito never changed from the way he is today, never learned anything more?"

She smiled broadly. "Bears, when you asked me that on the first day I met you, I became so upset, so angry. I wanted to run out of your house and never, never come back. How could I have traveled over three thousand miles to be asked such a crazy question? I thought there was only one possible answer ... that, of course, I had to feel terrible if he didn't improve." A long, relaxed sigh echoed from her throat. "Now I can say it would be okay. I never realized by not accepting Robertito as he is, I was disapproving of him."

"It's like saying to a person it's not okay to be who you are; you must be something else to be acceptable," Suzi commented.

"Yes, I understand," Francisca said. "Although I want more for Robertito and will work for more, I can see my son clearer now and can enjoy him now ... really enjoy him. Oh, God, I feel so much easier with myself." Her face glowed; her eyes emanated a peacefulness which had never been apparent before.

Bryn charged into the living room wide-eyed. She held her index finger in front of her lips, hushing our conversation, and motioned for us to follow quickly. We gathered at the kitchen door. A bottle of juice balanced precariously near the edge of the counter. On tiptoes, little Robertito stretched his arms as high as possible, but missed his mark. A strange, throaty sound oozed from him. And then it became apparent. "Ju. Ju. Ju." Francisca laughed and cried as she quickly poured the juice into a plastic glass.

Raun pulled on Suzi's pants. "Mama, can I have juice, too?"

"I'll give him some," Thea offered.

When we turned to re-enter the living room, I saw Roby sitting by himself, his face flushed. Francisca sat beside him quietly, then talked softly to Jaime. "Francisca," he said, "believes Roby would like to be alone." The Sotos rose from the couch.

"Tell them to stay. Well be in the other room." I asked Elise and the children to keep Robertito in the kitchen while Suzi and I sat in the den. A man's muffled sobbing filtered through the walls.

Within the next hour, Robertito used two more words in order to communicate his wants.

Later, we reassembled in the living room. Roby and the maestro completed a rather intense conversation. Jaime directed his words toward me.

"Senor Soto would like to say something, but he is concerned you might get insulted."

I laughed. "Tell him I doubt it. If I get insulted, I do that to myself. And since I don't want to feel uncomfortable or upset, there's no risk. Let him say what he would like."

Jaime spoke again for Roby. "The Sotos would like to pay you. They have calculated that you have worked with them and their son for almost eighty hours during the past week. They realize you and Suzi had to stop many other things in order to do this. They wish to compensate you for teaching them."

Leaning forward, I put my hands on top of Roby's and Francisca's hands. I searched their sensitive faces. "First, I'm not insulted. I understand your intentions. If we wanted to be paid, I would have told you that in the beginning. We chose to be here, to help. I don't know if we could always do this, but we wanted to do it now. We've been enriched by knowing you, your son, and witnessing his movement. It has been a very beautiful week, a very complete week. Your joy stands as our payment."

Roby nodded, acknowledging my words. Francisca's eyes sparkled. Caring thoughts passed from person to person in the silence. Suddenly, the blaring horn of a taxi invaded the room. Jaime excused himself, stepping outside to ask the driver to wait. Roby checked his passports and plane tickets.

Suzi fought back tears as she hugged Roby, Francisca and little Robertito. I embraced each of them as did our children. Then I turned to Jaime, refusing to say my good-bye to him with a formal handshake. As I reached to hug him, he reached to hug me. We patted each other on the back and laughed.

"Senor Kaufman, I am slow at changing, but this has been a great learning experience for me. On the day we met, you asked me to call you Bears. I am ready now."

"Peace, Jaime," I smiled.

"And to you, Bears. Adios," he said. Then the maestro embraced Suzi.

"I have no more words," Roby whispered. "My feelings are too strong for my words." He bowed his head and led his family down the walk to the waiting car.

Chapter 2