Still looking for key

Published 2:04 am Wednesday, January 18, 2012

This column was going to be about my getting a certificate showing I successfully completed 200 hours of yoga teacher training. I planned to write about how it felt to accomplish this at age 59 and to thank all the people who supported me on my journey through the 10 months of training.

I had it written in my head and was on my way to put it on paper, well the virtual paper of a computer screen. Then before I started the column, I clicked on a link from a Facebook friend and found myself crying as I watched a video about a girl named Carly.

Like my youngest daughter, Carly has autism. In fact, in many ways her autism is more severe. For years, her parents tried therapy after therapy to help their child, something my husband and I know about. While Carly made some progress, it was baby steps and she got a label of severely autistic with mental deficiencies or as the clinician said, “moderately mentally retarded,” a label also attached to my child.

Her parents lived with the tantrums, outbursts and strange behaviors that are part of autism. “Lost in her own world,” was how they described her. Still they never gave up hope they could find her or at least find a way to get into her world.

Then one miraculous day, this child who did not speak typed a word on the computer for the first time – HURT, followed by another word HELP. Then she threw up. Suddenly they knew there was, as her father always thought, something more going on inside this girl.

Over several years, her ability to communicate grew and she gave everyone a peek into her life and into what it is like to live with autism. As I read the words, she wrote explaining her behaviors, her desire to be like other kids and her plea for people to understand her instead of judging her based on appearance alone, tears poured down my cheeks.

“She sees herself as a normal child locked inside a body that doesn’t work,” her father said.

That is exactly the thought I’ve had about my own child. I know she is in there. I know there is much more than what we see or what she can tell us. There are so many things I’d like to know about her- about the person trapped inside this condition called autism.

Every now and then, I see her sense of humor and when she cuts her eyes and gives me that certain smile, I catch a glimpse of a mischievous girl. I want to know that girl better.

I long to know how she feels when she is quiet and if her body hurts when she needs to move constantly and jump up and down incessantly.

Is she happy? She seems happy, but I don’t know if she has dreams or desires that she can’t express. Not knowing what else I can do or if I should do something differently to help her is always in the back of my mind.

At the end of the video, Carly said something that explains why I keep looking for a key that will unlock the door into my child’s world. It is why I will never stop believing that a key exists.

“Don’t give up. Your inner voice will find its way out. Mine did,” Carly typed.

Now that is the column I look forward to writing. The one that lets the world know I have finally heard my child’s inner voice.