Where have I been?
Sillies, I went and saw the Queen. She said my hands are purfickly clean.
No, not really. But there have been some enormous changes. Olive is currently on hiatus from Keshet and is attending a six week long, two hours a day intensive program of one on one speech therapy. She usually sees two therapists a day, back to back. It is exhausting and I'm only watching. Thus far, day three, Olive loves it -- loves the attention, loves having the focus on her, and has deemed these therapists worthy of seeing her perform the real signs for more and eat and all done, which she has known for ages but refused to use because... because she's been to London and the Queen says her hands are purfickly clean. That's as good a way to explain it as any.
It's not hard to see why all this would be tiring for the therapists and tiring for Olive, but why am I so tired? Because I've done this before. With apologies to Ford Maddox Ford, this is the saddest story I have ever heard:
Once upon a time there was an autistic little girl and a speech therapist. This little girl, though completely nonverbal, looked as if she might be about to speak at any moment. She was oddly present for a child with no words.
Initially the therapist saw rapid progress. This was really happening: signs and gestures and clear evidence that this child understood spoken language fluently! Now this therapist had been well-trained, but she could not help getting ahead of herself and imagining the future for this child: the words were right there, just waiting to come out. The therapist felt as if she were close enough to Temple Grandin's cowboy shirt to touch it.
But right there is where those words stayed. Weeks went by, maybe months, and though the therapist kept showing up, kept working hard, something was missing. The sound of the therapist's carefully muffled sigh was so subtle that you'd have to be autistic to hear it.
Like the little girl.
Soon, the little girl stopped making progress. She replaced signs with what was genteelly called "behaviors." Therapy had to be curtailed, a new therapist found. A change of venue, a change of time-slot, a change of medication. Sometimes, all of the above.
Because she's mine, I walk the line between hope and wariness. Between skipping and plodding. Between plodding and pacing. Between pacing and sleeping.
Off the top of my head, Olive and I have done this particular dance seven times. What is different this time?
Olive is a little different. There seems to be a slight opening of the valves, a faint interest in that emperor kneeling upon her mat. And this program's method: always at least two different therapists a day and no dreaded PECS (Olive never did see any reason to learn any picture beyond the Dove Bar and the Bubbles). If a therapist is subtly fighting herself to keep from losing heart, it's time for Olive to go to the next activity and the next therapist in the next room. I feel....no, I think there is reason to believe Olive will complete this program with moderate to possibly significant gains in language.
I can't call on you all at once, but I do have time for a few questions.
Reader 47: The ending of the story feels a little forced.
Reader 56: No, it's ambiguous.
Reader 131: It feels unnatural because it doesn't match the rest of the story.
(The three readers all nod in agreement. Briefly, they talk among themselves. The ending doesn't match. Why doesn't it match?)
Reader 156: It's too optimistic.
All fall silent, because these are the kindest and smartest of readers and they realize at once why the story has to end this way.
It has to end this way because it is not a story.