"She'll be a good worker," she said with a smile, not meaning to be insensitive in the slightest. I could tell she thought this was a good thing. "She'll be a really good worker."
She'll be a good worker?
My eyes fell to the table, the only place I could look, fixated on the phone in front of me. My husband had participated by phone. He had just hung up a minute before. Save me. Please save me. I sent telepathic thoughts through it to him. I've kept it together this long. I almost made it. Please, God. Not again. Not every year. Matt? Can you hear me? Save me.
He could not.
The typing on the lap top continued quietly, the shuffling of papers all around. I'm certain they were all still talking, although I could hear nothing.
She'll be a good worker?
Tears swelled in my eyes, my heart stuck in my throat. If I blinked, there would be no hiding it, so I didn't. I just stared at my phone, and then eventually pressed the weather app in the hopes it would distract me. For a moment it did. And then, a question.
"So I wanted to ask you something," the new speech therapist asked strangely. Instinctively, I knew what it was going to be. She was new to our case, new to me. This happens every time.
She thumbed through her case history and came upon the highlighted sentence. Pondering it, she looked at it, looked at me, and then looked back at it. I was right.
"It says here that Eve was evaluated in 2007," she paused now looking at me again, "and that they consider her 95% recovered from Autism?"
"Yes," I looked her dead in the eyes with a suggestion of "...and your point is?" I have gone from intense pain to intense pain-in-the-ass in ten seconds.
"I don't understand," she responded flatly.
"I don't understand what you don't understand," I carefully answered back. It was still hard to tell if she was being sincere or not. Knowing how defensive I was feeling, I chose to give her the benefit of the doubt.
"Well, explain to me what that means. Recover from Autism?" She was actually sincere.
"It's quite simple," I relaxed back in my chair. "There are two schools of thought when it comes to Autism." I used my hands to demonstrate where they were in terms of space. "One school says it is a genetic condition that you are born with and die with." I put that hand way over to the left. "But there's another that says it's a disorder, an illness in our case, that is not only treatable, but preventable and entirely reversible." I put that hand way over to the right. "All evidence points to the later, so we treated her, and she got better. Like when you break a leg. You put a cast on it, and you recover. It might never be the same. There might be a scar or permanent damage, but you recover. That's what it means."
She looked at me for a moment. I could tell she was still confused. The director jumped in.
"A lot of parents have the same experience," she nodded to let me know she had my back. "It makes a lot more sense that these kids are sick, but not everyone believes that. Everyone is different. I have one set of twins, for example, and the mom knows for sure that one twin was different in-utero. It just depends." She felt better knowing she'd given both sides a fair shake. I got irritated.
"Actually," I said not really caring who this offended, "it really doesn't. It's all the same. It's not sometimes genetic and sometimes not."
"Hmph," the speech teacher wasn't finished with me yet. "So like, what got better?"
"Well, you should have seen her from the beginning," the director cut me off. "I remember when we couldn't get her to do anything. Remember how tactile defensive she was?" She went into the details of long ago. We've been with this director since age three.
"Yep, that's pretty much it," I lied when she finished, just wanting to get out of there. An IEP should not be a one-stop-torture-shop, and yet, every year for me, it is. A trip down memory lane, teaching all of the new staff members about our painful past. Always worrying about who is going to bring that up. Always that one teacher who seriously must have her head in the sand to not know anything about this right now.
We said our collective good byes. I gathered the papers with way too much information about all of things my poor baby girl still struggles to do and made my way up the dark stairway to the main entrance. At the last minute, our meeting was moved to the basement conference room because the IEP prior was taking much longer than planned. The basement was a perfect symbol for the experience.
In the car, I immediately turned off the radio. Anytime I have to concentrate, or simply can't process one more thing, I make it as quiet as possible. It's like when you're lost. You just can't think about anything else, even a song. I guess you could say I was also lost right then.
I drove slowly the three blocks home. It's the same neighborhood we brought Eve home from the hospital. I remembered also driving slowly with her bundled in her car seat that day. I was so careful, ready to attack anyone who even remotely looked like a danger to my precious child. I wanted to plaster the car with something that said, "There's a new baby in here! Watch it!"
I remembered how beautiful she was that day, one of the most beautiful babies I had ever seen. I remembered her bedroom and outfits, all laid out and clean in her pretty nursery finished well ahead of time.
And I remembered all of the dreams I had for her as we welcomed her in our lives. Doctor? Lawyer? Teacher? Astronaut? Performer? Athlete? Model?
I didn't know what she would be, but I had no doubt, it would be anything she wanted. Between her father and I, she was destined for great things. This I knew for sure.
She'll be a good worker.
It echoed in my head and my heart heavily. This was her destiny ten years later?
She'll be a good worker.
It angered me the more I thought about it, and it concerned me greatly that those responsible for her education seemed to think this was a high enough expectation.
"Not if I have anything to say about it," I said convincingly to no one pulling in the driveway. "Not if I have anything to say about it." This is my nature. I don't ever wallow for too long. Three blocks was enough of that.
But then I realized, as I turned off the car and made my way into the house, there really was nothing to say, nothing to do. All I could do in that moment was feel.
I put down the papers, gently hung up my coat...and cried.
Julie Obradovic is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.