The highlight of Saturday was the brighter-than-sunlight smile on Charlie's face when he saw, and got a huge from, one of his very first ABA therapists. She and her husband flew out to New York Saturday on some business and kindly took the train to our New Jersey town.
We were actually just returning from a Jersey horse country bike trail bike ride when they got to our train station. Fortunately there's a very nice café (which I have actually drank coffee in on one of those rare occasions) in the center of our town and our friends had lunch there while we got Charlie his usual after-bike burrito and then came home.
This therapist was in her senior year at the university where I was teaching in 1999 when we were first looking for students to do ABA with Charlie. I still remember meeting her when she walked into my windowless office. She was at the first training session we had in our second-floor duplex on Ashland Avenue in St. Paul, when Charlie cried, cried, cried at having these people trying to get him to sit in a plastic purple chair hey what!.
Actually, when our friend had her first turn getting Charlie to come to the table and sit in the chair, he didn't cry.
Later, when he was doing a full (40 hour) schedule of ABA sessions, he often climbed up on a futon couch to look for the therapists; he always knew our friend was there when he sighted her car, a red SUV. He took to all of the young women who were his first ABA therapists but he especially took to her. Charlie was preschool-age then and she'd pick him up in one of the plastic purple chairs and give him a "Jetson" 's ride, or push him around in a laundry basket. She babysat him a couple of times, too, and, after we moved back to St. Louis in May of 2000, she came to visit us. Nine years ago, Jim, Charlie and I went to her wedding and (I think I'm remembering right), walking down the aisle after the ceremony, she actually stopped on seeing Charlie as he gave her a very big smile.
We've stayed in touch over the years via the Internet and, on hearing that she and her husband would be out here on the East Coast for a few days, of course had to get together. Jim and I told Charlie at the most two times that she was going to visit; I'm sure he committed the thought to memory on hearing it the first time.
After meeting her in my old office 12 years ago -- it was a time when all was confusion, when we weren't sure we should be doing ABA, when we were wondering about biomedical remedies, when 'autism' was the scariest of words though it was Charlie's diagnosis -- I remember thinking, things are going to be all right. Many have been the trials and tribulations since then (understatement of the decade, right?): Thanks to Charlie's long, early days of teaching and learning with our friend and his first therapist team, things are still -- are still going to be -- all right.