Magazine article The Human Life Review

Drop by Drop

Magazine article The Human Life Review

Drop by Drop

Article excerpt

Little Sam had become violent and uncaring, throwing plates and cups and toys. Cold as ice to our entreaties, he was like an impish little bear rejecting his waiting elders. Banging on trays and pots in the kitchen, he made clanging, clashing sounds like a heavy metal musician gone mad. Then there was the ripping of objects out of cabinets and the seizing of what lay on tables-a pillager in a frenzy.

We grandparents learned to prep for his visits, locking, taping, latching down doors, cabinets, appliance knobs, and whatever else could fall into his grasp. One might think we were under siege. And then there was the invisible screen over his mouth rendering him speechless. When kids his age were learning to explode with words and sounds, he would rarely emit a paltry peep. His eyes, averted from us, were engrossed in spinning things like the blades on the ceiling fan. It was as if he had shut the door on humanity. His diagnosis: autism, a technical term that sounds to many in our culture like something sinister. We-parents, grandparents, doctors, nurses, and occupational therapists-began to search a cluster of symptoms. It all reminded me of snarled fishing line: We'd uncover one thing but then another emerged. Medical staff performed like a well-oiled machine in describing symptoms but strategies were moving in baby steps. His mother became the expert on his options-diving into books, meetings, and Internet. And somehow we all prayed.

Each plea was like a drop of water falling on the hard surface of iron ore rock. We prayed and prayed, and, at times, felt prayed out. Little Sam had learned a few words, peeked at a person now and then. We kept on praying and calling, chanting, moving-various ploys to draw him out. And then somehow he seemed to be in a kind of gridlock. I sought out more prayer partners. Some were afraid when they heard that word autism. They felt it must be contagious. If they got too close to us they might catch it and like a kind of leprosy it would attack their bodies. Others did not want to know. It must be because people were misbehaving and getting what they deserved. Thank goodness they were clean and deserved to be clean. …

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