The first thing I wanted to do when I saw Liam was hug him. Who would not like a child so beautiful and cute? He is now eight years old. Smiling all the time. He comes to our center for therapy at eight in the morning, his treatment lasts till four in the afternoon. In behavior therapy he learned many new and essential skills, learning to control many of his unwanted behaviors.
But, it was not that easy at first. When he first came to the center for therapy, he had just been diagnosed with autism. I went to the center one morning and saw a single mother sitting at the reception with her six-year-old son Liam. The intake officer had not arrived yet. What I saw in the first ten minutes of observation was-
Liam’s mother, Diane, dragged her six-year-old son, Liam, into our center. He sat down in a chair himself, passing the next chair to Liam. He said, “Sit.” Liam shouts, ‘no okay!’
Not only that, but within seconds, before anyone knew anything, Liam threw a bunch of spit in his mother’s face. Two or three staff rushed to deal with the situation. Liam spits in everyone’s face and laughs as he watches everyone’s reaction. Liam, a short, chubby blond boy, is so cute that anyone would want to cuddle. But what is the use of this?
The intake officer, Roya came after five minutes. As Roya said good morning and extended her hand to Leon, Leon came running to her smiling. Before Roy entered the reception, 2/3 of his team told the events that had happened so far. But with some education in behavior therapy and 7/8 years of working in the field, Roy’s confidence is so high that when he sees Liam, his team’s criticisms are blown away. Limon came forward to grab Roy’s outstretched hand. Holding the hand while laughing. But what happened next, Roy did not understand at all. Raya could not cope with the power of a six-year-old child like Leon! Laughing holding Roy’s hand, Limon gathered his thumbs, middle fingers, index fingers and pinched them in such a way that he could not save his skin even if he used any CPI (Crisis Prevention Intervention). The more frantically Raya runs her hands, the tighter Limon’s fingers and nails tighten. Finally Leon’s mother came up from behind and dragged Leon out the door, ignoring the massive flailing, towards the car.
By then, half an inch of flesh will disappear just above the wrist, and between the elbows. For some reason, Roy didn’t seem hurt as much as he was surprised. The staff all scrambled and ran with the first aid box, Bobby picked up the phone to call the paramedics. Roya shouted, ‘Hold the phone! i’m fine This is nothing new in this field, these are our daily companions.
Royer surprised himself at the sound of his own voice immediately after chirping. He couldn’t believe how he reacted like that! He smiled to put everyone at ease and said, ‘I’m fine’. There is a walk-in clinic next door, I’ll go there and fix everything, you continue to work. This pain is beyond her tolerance! Roya lost all control over herself now. With tears and anger in Gujarat, Raya said, ‘what a bitch father! After years of CPI training, I could not protect myself from this six-year-old child! The pain is almost like fainting.
Jane and Robin almost forcefully took Roy to the clinic next door. After the first aid, Robin urged Roya, ‘get in the car, I’ll drive you home’ and Jane started driving Roya’s car as Roya might not be strong enough to drive for a few days.
Her husband, Roni, approaches Roy on seeing her home untimely. Ronnie didn’t take long to understand what had happened when he saw Raya standing over Jane and Robin. This is not the first time, it has happened several times in the last few years. Ronnie cannot control himself in such a situation. He loves his wife blindly. I understand that this pain hurts Roni more than Roy. But he was more angry than sympathetic. Roni shouted restlessly, ‘That’s why I say that you leave the job! Is there no work in the world? Why go to deal with the madness of madmen?’
As much as the hand pain was causing pain to Roya, Roni’s comment to Roya caused more pain than that. In great anger, he said, ‘If your child was like Liam today, would you throw him away? I am satisfied when we can give a normal life to these mentally retarded special-needs children by teaching them age-appropriate skills, that is our success.’
Ronnie: Would you sacrifice yourself to a man of this level of madness and violence?
Raya: Don’t sound selfish, Ronnie! I am not alone, we have a whole team of fifteen staff-therapists-senior therapists and consultants to handle him.
Roni: Still you admit him?
All this time Raya was mad at Liam for the pain in her hand. A couple of times he thought in his heart that Liam might not be admitted. There are still fifty other clients besides Liam on the waiting list. But now Roni’s comment seemed to suppress his insistence. No, not negligence, she decided. Liam certainly has a right to fair treatment. He will make all arrangements for Liam’s treatment. He picked up the phone to call the center.
On the other hand, the incident in the morning caused chaos in the center. Although there are many critical patients in their center, several new placement students and some newly joined staff started whispering so much that quite anarchy started. Roya calls a general meeting for tomorrow to think how to deal with Liam.
Liam’s mother, quite embarrassed by the morning’s events. He assumed that the center might not admit his son. He is looking at Liam again and again with disgust and wondering, what will he do with this boy? Just then the telephone rang. ‘I’m very sorry we couldn’t finish our intake meeting with you today,’ Roya said to Dean quite politely. Next Thursday we are putting Liam on the schedule again. Bring him exactly at nine o’clock. Hearing this, Liam’s mother, Diane, was like the moon in the sky.
The trees around are changing colors. A fleeting summer is much desired by all in these winter lands. Everyone looks forward to this time throughout the year. As soon as he saw the colorful flowers around him, Liam clapped his hands happily and his eyes sparkled. Liam’s happiness caused a glimmer of happiness in Dean’s ever-clouded mind. Diana took Liam to the park last week. Seeing the colorful flowers around him, Liam happily danced his way towards the park’s playground, while all the other children in the neighborhood ran away.
The parents sitting on the park bench hurriedly grabbed their children and left the park. And in doing so, it seemed as if someone immediately smeared black mud on Liam’s face. Dean’s chest heaved in pain. Tears did not accept any barrier. Is it all his fault? How many people will leave him and his liver treasure Liam? Liam is also human! He just does not know how to express himself, and how, where-what to use? Yes, Liam doesn’t know many things, but it’s also true that Liam doesn’t know – how to lie, how to deceive people, how to express one’s will beautifully, how to ask or get something. But still like everyone else, Liam has the right to learn, he just learns a little differently, his learning style is a little different!