Twice a month my friend Molly and I tie quilts in the church basement. Proudly she shows me the ribbons she won at the "Special Needs Track Meet". Occasionally we meet Sandy, a husky artistic ten year-old, whose autism determines what he does. His uncle Syd has cerebral palsy and a mind as sharp as a tack. But his muscles aren't nearly as strong as those of his twin brother. Sometimes it makes him aggressive and almost bitter. Such human frailties come in different forms and affect behaviour that is out of sync with society. These three and many others differ from what is considered normal.
Erratic behaviour has been endlessly probed and studied, but this is of little help to worn-out parents and care-givers. The taunting insensitivity of others around them hurts most. Mental illness brings agony that never ends until that final breath finishes the story for everyone involved.
A careful detective policeman is constantly on the lookout for clues that will help him solve the mystery that surrounds each puzzling case. Similarly, spouses, siblings and therapists listen and strain their eyes for any clue that will unlock the mental guide that prompts seemingly irrational outbursts; or others whose frustrations are forever locked in silence and are never vented. Mute patients lack the courage or skill to utter a single understandable word throughout their lifetime.
What is the key to open this closed and hidden secret that is sol illusive? Sometimes a therapy is effective for a moment or a month; and then it vanishes. For some it is a gentle touch and for others it is rocking to soothing sound.
However, super sensitivity to high pitched sounds hurts some ears, and the individuals cringe as they cup their hands over their ears to shield them from what they feel is a piercing shriek. Others may be enthralled by the same notes from a musical composition.
Attention spans are often fleeting. What pops into their mental idea box seems to require immediate action. Some of it is gratifying, but more often it is irritating and disturbing. Each minute improvement in the behaviour of an autistic child is a victory. One waits for more. Perhaps a manor break-through improvement is just around the corner. Always one waits with longing hope.
Contentment and joy are relaxing to the mind and body. Those who see beauty in shapes and feel compelled to create them compulsively are suspect. What can you do with endless cut outs? Even those beautifully done by e genius cut-out artist. This does not bother the busy hands and mind which seems to lack a need to reason like the rest of society. People with such repetitive behaviour can sometimes be directed to useful supervised skills in the workplace.
What then is the solution to caring for those whose minds think differently, are often difficult and cannot be left alone? This gnawing pain grinds away at families and relationships with endless work, worry and responsibility.
To begin with, the load is lightened a little with help through community understanding of the need for regular respite care, gentle tolerance and loving patience. With progression of mental disease and deteriorating health we trust home help, hospitals and care homes will continue to give compassionate medical attention.