Jason came up to me in the main hall and started talking about a client in our day school, Marvin. Marvin had been diagnosed with autism. It was clear that Jason was very committed to Marvin and wanted what was best for him. Together they had developed many tools that helped Marvin stay calm as he moved throughout his day. They included such items as a fidget ball which Marvin kept in his pocket and a weighted vest which Marvin could wear when agitated. Marvin reported feeling calmer when he wore the vest.But Jason was very uneasy about Marvin’s use of these items. He was concerned about what would happen when Marvin returned to public school. When he used these items the other kids would tease him, he would not have any friends, and he would be miserable. Jason was thinking of taking away the items now so that Marvin could learn to do without them.
Later as I helped my husband to apply a Band-Aid to his cut thumb, I reflected on the idea of a band aid. When we apply a bandage to a cut, we do not worry about the person’s reliance on a bandage. Even if it is a big cut and a big bandage. Or a plaster cast. We do not assume they will need this bandage for life and other people will make fun of them. We realize that the body has a powerful innate healing capacity. All we need to do is provide an environment in which the injured part will not receive further jury and thus will heal. We know that as soon as the cut is mended, the broken bone re-connected the person will reject the band aid and the cast on their own.When you think of it, it is pretty miraculous that skin knits back together; that bones reconnect and are even stronger than previously; that internal organs return to healthy functioning. I have read that a lot of medicine is providing a safe, supportive environment in which the body can heal itself.
So maybe that is a large part of what we do in treatment. We try to avoid hurting our clients further, and we offer safety and support that promotes healing.Of course in medicine we cannot cure everything. The person may have a scar. Some need prosthetics. Again, we don’t worry about people’s reactions in the future. If the patient needs the aide, medical personnel will teach him how to use it most effectively.
So Jason doesn’t have to worry about taking the supportive tools away from Marvin. When he doesn’t need them, he will drop them himself. The urge to be grown up and normal will prevail. And it he continues to need some help when he goes to school, work with him on how to use it discretely.And he may get teased. Most kids do at some point. But maybe we will have taught him tricks not to over react. And the memory of Jason, who cared about him, will give him the strength and hope to keep moving forward.