Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Takarazuka Syndrome Meets Cerebral Palsy. (Editor's Desk)

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Takarazuka Syndrome Meets Cerebral Palsy. (Editor's Desk)

Article excerpt

"Use what language you will, you can never say anything but what you are."--Emerson

Akiko is the kind of student that only Norman Rockwell could depict: bright, eager, diligent, attentive and appreciative. Last May after requesting that I mentor her for the current fail semester she shows up at my office asking me to suggest some summer reading to help her prepare for our sessions. This was not some orchestrated attempt to start lubing the "ACE the course" machinery. Akiko is not the reincarnation of Eddie Haskell of "Leave it to Beaver" fame. She's a committed student in the graduate counseling program at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) and she was intent on doing her practicum with me counseling people with complex developmental disabilities and cognitive impairments.

Providing psychosocial counseling to this population has been embarrassingly underaddressed and we're way behind schedule in exposing counseling students to the awaiting challenges and awards. Dr. Audrey Canaff of the UTC graduate counseling department has been a champion in encouraging students to try their hand with the clients at Orange Grove, and from time to time sends me gems like Akiko.

Jump cut to the first week of classes and Akiko is sitting in my office with pen in hand. After providing her with background information about her awaiting client load, their issues, my goals and nonnegotiables about ethics, confidentiality, and her role, I begin to describe her first encounter. (By the way all names appearing in this article ar, e real names 'cause that's how you best describe real people. Besides, they insisted.)

"I want to start by introducing you to Robert, a neat guy. Robert's 35 years old, lives with his dad, works as a security guard at the Habilitation Center, has jumped out of planes, prefers the early Sun label Elvis recordings, trusts me to cash his paychecks, treasures his NYPD bail cap, calls me Rader, and is on a mission to win the heart of an elusive sultry brunette. And just so you won't think I haven't noticed he's non ambulatory, has cerebral palsy and you can't always understand what he's telling you."

Akiko was jotting down everything and stopped me to explain what "Sun label Elvis recordings" were, and what was an "NYPD bail cap." Akiko is a native born Japanese student, speaks English as her second language and has an expected delay in her American cultural literacy. One could say Akiko has a demonstrated American pop culture deficit coupled with a global expressive language impairment. In medical labeling we're fond of taking recognized and documented manifestations, grouping them together and giving them descriptive handles. So let's just say that Akiko presents with Takarazuka syndrome named after her birthplace, and besides it sounds like a real syndrome you would read about. I'm still working on the criteria for Takarazuka syndrome Type 1 and Type 2 but I'm sure they will hinge on the degree of familiarity with the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges. "For your first meeting with Robert," I tell Akiko "don't even think about discussing any counseling issues. I simply want you to meet Robert and get used to talking to him, trying to understand him and possibly, as the vaudevillian comedians suggested leave 'em wanting more. …

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