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The Impossible Child - Page 9


We started taking him to Rebecca for twice-a-week therapy sessions, but I would have taken him once a day if she would have agreed to it. She predicted that he would respond well to treatment, but that it would take time--at least a year. This was not magic: it was hands-on, developmentally oriented therapy based on the notion that the brain is shaped by experience. Through play, Rebecca provided Evan with sensorimotor challenges difficult enough to be appealing, but easy enough to be attainable. She said that these experiences would build upon one another, gradually laying the neural pathways between body and brain that were necessary for more efficient sensory processing.

Watching Evan and Rebecca together, I had to remind myself that they were shaping his brain. To my untrained eye, it looked like they were just having fun--crawling through tunnels, spinning in tire swings, diving into bean bags, tooting on horns, jumping through hoops. But surreptitiously, she was working him. Decreasing tactile sensitivity. Increasing upper body strength and postural stability. Encouraging bilateral coordination. Practicing motor planning. Building self-confidence. Developing a sense of mastery.

Meanwhile, life at our house was still hard. Power struggles persisted and temper tantrums were a regular occurrence, usually just before dinner, when the accumulation of the day's irritations crashed in on us all. Even though we couldn't always figure out what was causing him to crumble, we no longer blamed Evan for his frustration. We eased up and tried to listen.

With encouragement, he began to describe the peculiarities of how his body worked. Over a peanut butter snack one morning, he said, "Andrew is allergic to peanut butter, but I'm allergic to things on my skin." After we gave in to his request to wear the same pair of soft cotton shorts day after day, he happily said, "I love smooth. It's my favorite thing." When I asked him what happened when kids at school accidentally bumped into him, he replied, "Oh, I have to fall down to get away from them."

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