Friday, November 6, 2009

The tightrope

I met with C.’s physiotherapist yesterday after six weeks of repeated rescheduling. She’s only in the school three times a week which complicated things.

I had low expectations but was pleasantly surprised. She was highly complimentary of the work I have been doing with C. and of C.’s performance. She also had several excellent tips for modifying the exercises I do. She worked with my daughter some seven years ago for about a year. I was unimpressed.

But I must confess I was very uninvolved with the school program back then. I just immersed myself and C. in hours of Medek exercises at home under the guidance of a trained instructor whom we trekked to once every few months. I never shared what I was doing with the school staff. Nor did I solicit their input.

About two years ago, the Medek exercises, which had helped my daughter immensely, became impossible for me to continue. C. had grown too tall and I too old (mid-fifties). So I started doing easier walking exercises and retained only one authentic Medek walk (holding her right above the knees).

It’s not easy to maneuver that “staff-tightrope”: expressing my preferences and enlisting their help while nurturing a friendly relationship with them. They often have fragile egos and with the slightest hint of criticism you can evoke their resentment. Also, the staff in C.’s school have grown accustomed to parents who stay out of sight and mind. What a blessing for the therapists afflicted with burn-out or laziness. And, as we know, there’s no shortage of those.

This week, a mother of eleven was sentenced to four years in prison for abusing her children. She had been doing so with impunity for many years until one cold night, when she locked her mentally disabled son out of the house in shorts and a shirt. His cries finally prompted the neighbors to call the police. I remember reading, prior to sentencing, that several of the older children, now married, defended their mother by blaming her behavior on the birth of their disabled sibling. It made her lose her mind, they argued. So having a disabled child entitles a parent to torture others?

I was disappointed with the sentence. So was the woman’s lawyer but obviously not for the same reason.

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