Thursday, May 8, 2008

NPR This I Believe: Adapting to the Possibilities of Life

Weekend Edition Sunday, April 27, 2008 · I believe in adaptation — that is, the same stimulus does not invariably elicit the same response over time.

The first time I saw my son flap his arms, I nearly threw up.

Koby's arm-flapping means something different to me now. It means that he's interested, tuned in and present in the moment.

That Koby has autism is old news at this point. We've grieved, survived and adapted. We've learned to be more patient, to celebrate more modest victories, and to connect with Koby whenever and however we can. Now, when Koby flaps, I'm happy for him and what it means about his engagement, not sickened by what it might mean for his and our futures.

Same stimulus, different response.

I believe that this lesson in adaptation has been one of Koby's greatest gifts to me, to our whole family. I've seen it as Emma's embarrassment over her brother's condition has faded and been replaced with compassion for those who struggle. And I've seen the influence of Koby's lesson in my own work, helping patients cope with illness and tragedy in their lives — like my patient who can finally celebrate her father's memory after years of debilitating grief that came with every anniversary of his death.

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