My son has had an amazing year in terms of his progress. In less than 12 months, he went from being virtually unteachable in school to exceeding all his goals. The staff has been complimentary beyond our hopes and his communication level has shot through the roof.
I credited so much of that to his involvement with a new behavioral therapist, who focused heavily on his communication iPad and ability to sit calmly. We were blown away by how quickly he took to her and the things she taught him. In our eyes, this woman was a miracle worker.
We found her to be so outstanding that we even credited the successes of others to her. When he was just as calm and focused with a second therapist came in to teach him on his off days and when the teachers from school sent home notes of glowing praise, we thought, “It must be Denise. She really worked so hard to make him a better kid. This is all her doing.”
Denise wasn’t just a member of our team, she was our crown jewel. I deferred to her with questions, sang her praises, and requested her for future special education meetings. Everything my non-verbal son had accomplished was verbally credited to her.
That’s why Denise’s announcement that she would be switching agencies came as such a shock. She would be moving across town to a new one and, if we wanted to keep her, we had to jump through some hoops with the district. We put that on our to-do list and took comfort in the promise that she would be staying on for a few weeks or months in order to train the new person. Not just that, but she would work with them prior to the start in order to bring them totally up to speed. In her words, she wouldn’t be leaving us “high and dry.”
The following week, she dropped a second bombshell. The new agency would no longer be across town, but in the city. It was too far to consider her a possible therapist for Lucas any longer, district hoops or not. It was heartbreaking, but we wanted the best for her. She had done so much for our son that we couldn’t fault her for taking a better position further away. Again, she promised to help train the new person in those crucial weeks.
When Christmas break rolled around, Denise went radio silent. There were none of her usual check-ins or confirmations about whether we spoke with our new therapist. There was nothing. So, when Jim, the new guy showed up alone for his first appointment after the new year, we were understandably confused. A text to Denise confirmed that she was on her way. It all felt off, though. It wasn’t the same.
About ten minutes in, our crown jewel came rolling along in a hurried frenzy. She didn’t remove her coat, introduced herself to Jim for the first time, and began to frantically lay out all the things that she had meticulously put in place for Lucas since summer. My wife and I exchanged glances as she told us that she had to leave early.
I knew what was coming. I think you do too. As I already expected, her goodbye that day would be her final one.
She came walking over to my office, where we would sit just out of view during the sessions and thanked us “for everything.” I didn’t get up from my chair and, even though I already knew the answer, I couldn’t stop myself from saying it.
So, that’s it? Just one?
Her reply was fast and done in a way that let me know we all were aware of what was happening. She was prepared for this moment and our reaction.
Yes. Just one. OK. You guys can call the office if you have any questions about anything at all. Thank you! Take care. Good luck.
And she was gone.
I listened as Jim completed his initial session, alone, with Lucas in the den. I stared at the wall for a while, contemplating how quickly things came crashing down. I thought about the fact that we were supportive of her move, understanding of her circumstance, but ultimately lied to about how the transition would happen. Even worse, a simple text during any of the previous two weeks explaining that everything she promised would be happening wouldn’t be could have given us a much-appreciated heads up. Instead, she sprung it on us in the moment , then sprung out of our front door and our lives. One of the most important people to one of my most important people had pulled the rug out from under us all. In that moment, I felt awful.
But, as I sat there, I realized that Lucas, with or without Denise, was going to be just fine. His achievements have always been his own. While we were so busy searching for his savior to shower with praise, it was actually my son who was doing all the work. The ability to be the best he can be was inside of him the whole time and, while her techniques helped click, there were many others who made the same connection afterwards. There will be many more to come. I’ve seen it and I know it.
Don’t get me wrong. She deserves all the credit in the world for the work she did. But his teachers at school deserve all the credit in the world for the work they did and we, at home, deserve all our own credit too. That praise shouldn’t be assigned to someone else. Above all that, though, Lucas deserves the most credit. It’s ultimately all his effort, his maturity, and the evolution of his understanding. As he gets older, there will be many more people who bring out the best in him. Given the strides he’s made over the past year at home and school, I’m confident that he’s already surrounded by many of those people already. I couldn’t be more grateful.
The only person who can truly make my son the greatest he can be is him. He already has all the jewels in place and the crown is sitting on his head. He’s earned it.