Sunday, July 30, 2017

Quarterly Meeting

Last week, we had our regular quarterly meeting with Alex’s support team of professionals: his case manager who oversees his budget, a representative of the company who provides respite care, his behavioral therapist, and his music therapist. These meetings are similar to case conferences or annual case review conferences to discuss IEPs for students in special education except that they are held four times per year in our home.  Even though we have become accustomed to how these meetings proceed and truly like all of the people who work with Alex, I always wonder ahead of time what topics might arise and how Alex will react. From his standpoint, sitting through those hour-long meetings must be difficult. Not only does he have to listen to everyone talk about him, but also he’s the center of attention who must answer questions, which has to be difficult for him. Nonetheless, he usually takes these meetings in stride and cooperates nicely. This meeting was no different.

Because Alex had been battling thrush during the past quarter, he has not made the progress we would have liked this summer. The yeast infection has made him tired, but thankfully, not irritable, as it often does. He has not felt up to going places as much as usual, and he has preferred a more relaxing summer of watching baseball games on television and reading. Usually, the case manager will ask what new things Alex has done, seeking to find what progress he has made in trying new activities, but we didn’t have much to offer. However, everyone showed understanding that he has not been feeling well, and his therapists praised his progress in spite of suffering from illness. In fact, this meeting was one of the most positive ones we’ve ever had, which was a nice surprise.

The first person to arrive was the representative of the company that provides respite care for Alex. We had not met this woman before, but she was very friendly. When Ed introduced Alex to her, he made a good first impression by saying, “Nice to meet you” and giving her a handshake with the correct hand. (Nine times out of ten Alex will offer his left hand instead of his right hand for a handshake.) I only wish that his behavioral therapist had been there to see how well he put into practice the social skills she has worked on with him. Clearly, the meeting was off to a good start.

Later, his behavioral therapist explained that our Fun Friday sessions in which she and I take Alex out into the community had been less frequent this summer due to her busy schedule. Nonetheless, she described our recent return to our local Burger King, where the friendly staff always greet Alex warmly and treat him kindly. When we arrived there, one of the ladies immediately came to talk to him, telling him how much she’d missed him. Over the counter she extended her hands, which Alex took hold of, essentially a hug between old friends. Another lady who works there came over to our table to greet Alex with affection, making him feel welcome. As Alex’s mom, I find their kindness toward my son endearing, and I think they find his joy in seeing them, shown by a wide smile and a shudder indicating happiness he can’t contain, endearing. Despite his difficulty with communication and social skills, Alex is making progress and enjoys interacting with people who reach out to him with kindness.

In another anecdote shared during the meeting, his music therapist told of a session where Alex was clearly fatigued from the thrush and needed to end the session early. Although I appreciated his music therapist’s being understanding, I told Alex that he needed to finish the session properly, meaning that he needed to sign the therapist’s time sheet and thank him. Instead, he suddenly burst out singing the goodbye song, which is always the last song they sing in music therapy sessions. His therapist and I were surprised and pleased that he was willing to sing the song unprompted, a cappella, and solo. After Alex finished singing, his therapist grinned and said, “That works for me!” Once again, Alex showed progress by completing most of the session even though he didn’t feel well and by ending that same session literally and figuratively on a high note.

As Alex’s support team chatted with our family and each other in a relaxed and friendly way, I was reminded how blessed we are to have such wonderful people working with our son. For years, Ed and I did our best to provide for Alex’s needs and searched for people who could help him overcome the obstacles of autism. However, God provided the services Alex needs now and sent people with talent and expertise to help. More importantly, these people have genuine caring and affection for Alex, and like us, they want him to be the best that he can be. With all of us behind Alex guiding and supporting him, he will continue to develop skills he needs in life and to reach his full potential.

“You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.” Psalm 73:24

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