You ever wonder what the most touching blog posts are written about especially those that always bring back your audience for more? By having a blog and developing a number of readers over the years who have in many instances stayed in touch with me through email, Instagram, or Facebook , I have found that my platform strategy in writing is utilizing my personal life experiences. For example, I have worked over the years to deliver topics around my son Luke who has autism and the many struggles that have followed us through various experiences.
My autistic son Luke was discharged recently after a month in a Washington State King County Evaluation and Treatment Center. My understanding is these treatment centers are partially funded by the State of Washington. They do short-stay commitments for clients who present with severe mental illness. Luke has now returned to voluntary placement, although with extreme changes that include living in a hotel!
The school hallway was packed with students. Working my way through the corridor to my next class, a boy grabbed me in my crotch. I turned my head around quickly to see the perpetrator. It was shocking to me that anyone would even consider grabbing me in that region of my body.
Me Who? The world was a different place back then. Who would care about me?
(Disclaimer: Original post written 12/2012). When I was growing up, mental illness was shunned. We did not talk about it in my household. The first time I was exposed to the mentally ill was when I visited my two aunts at their job. They were nurses in a mental hospital for chronic patients in Kentucky. As a young girl of 17, I was immediately drawn into the strangeness of this new world. ( Today a person would not be allowed to visit like I was able).
Do not ask my son for approval. People stare at him sniffing my hair and he could care less. The acceptance of God in our lives is not dependent on humans.
Sitting at church today, it struck me how critical humanity can be towards each other. I watched an elderly man act out. He disgreed about some dialogue. I sat quiet. How many times had I opened my mouth? How about thinking it, but not speaking it? Words spoken or not can divide.
I travel a lot. Getting out of my comfort zone brings me to different cultures and diversity. I enjoy meeting new people. Communication is key. I find a smile is most inviting. It is the best kind of approval. Maybe. I am happy.
I think upon myself and wonder how hedonistic I may be. That deep seeded place thinking only about being happy as my greatest approval factor. Can you relate?
Do I need to look to the skys for my answer? Yes, and I also know my approval rating needs to be more like how my son looks at being accepted. It is with no thought of what others might think.
Let it go. Close my eyes and sniff away like my Luke! There will I find peace in God.
The arts mean more to me in my 50’s than any other previous decade of my life thus far. It may have to do with the fact I did not have as much time to appreciate and embrace human creative skills and imagination. I truly believe that the arts are meant to make us better people because of their beautiful and emotional power.
How do you describe a rider like Luke? His impish smile, his sense of humor, his serious, quiet moments…actually, he is a very typical 9-year-old boy. But he is autistic and when he rides at Little Bit, he lets us, his volunteers, into his world. He has opened up to us and shared his world with us. In return, we have taught him about horses, and riding, and control.
Two weeks ago, I was able to teach Luke to lead his horse on his own. In the past, I stood between him and his steed, J.R. Luke would take jaunty steps, lag behind or run ahead. That Thursday night, however, I handed him the lead rope and coiled it carefully in his hand. With his other small hand on the lead, I gave him the control. He walked with J.R., matching his steps and stride.
Luke has learned a lot about control since he started riding at Little Bit. He used to need reassurance that he would see mom or dad after class-depending on who brought him-as the ritual would begin each week:
“Go see mama? Go see mama?” he would ask with concern, as his eyes darted from his instructor and back and forth to his side walkers.
“Mama later, Luke,” Andrea, his side walker, would reply in her calming voice.
Sometimes, he would get pretty upset and agitated at the idea that mom or dad was not at his side at that moment. As time passed though, he would mimic the whole conversation, reassuring himself that all was OK in his world. “Go see mama”!…Mama later!” He would recite over and over.
I have volunteered at Little Bit for over ten years, and worked with many riders and volunteers. This rider has provided staying power. Luke has brought three of us volunteers together as “Team Luke.” I usually lead, and Andrea and Michelle work as side walkers. We are actually in danger of losing our volunteer jobs as Luke masters his riding skills and refines his balance. He is taking control.
I think that is what has been so special about Luke. He is so charming that his three volunteers keep coming back for him, season after season. We have all formed a bond that will be broken by the very fact that he learning and progressing each week. That is the good news and the bad news all rolled together! We have seen the progress and the great work his instructors do with him. Our goal is for Luke to have full control of his horse. He will get there; sooner than later. In the meantime, however, he highlights the week for me, Andrea, and Michelle.
We are looking forward to summer session, as that is the last time we will be together as the “team.” Michelle will head off to college in the fall. And Luke will probably not need side walkers by the end of this next session. But for now, I will treasure the trail rides, the obstacle courses, and the warm up sessions of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” He has touched our lives and in turn, we hope we have touched his!
A special thanks goes out to Helene, Andrea, and Michelle for making beautiful memories for me.
For information go to this link: http://www.littlebit.org/