Friday, March 10, 2006
A new world for Billy
This is a follow-up of another story that you can find here: Billy's World
I was surprised as I read the fax that was printing out the new referral. The school system wanted Billy re-evaluated - which I thought was odd because last I knew he was already enrolled in a preschool program.
The information on the referral indicated that he was now in the custody of his aunt and that she was trying to get him re-enrolled in the preschool program. I called the referral source and stated that I knew Billy and that I looked forward to seeing him again.
My immediate thought as I entered his aunt's home was that it was much cleaner than where he previously lived. The strong odor of cigarette smoke hung in the air and in every corner, so despite the fact that the home was superficially clean I still knew that I would have to de-fumigate myself after the visit. This made me feel badly for Billy, because he has to live in it every day. Still, this in itself is nothing that is reportable - many kids live in homes where the parents are heavy smokers - I just wish that they didn't have to be exposed to it.
Billy's Dad, the apparent source of the smoke, was in the house. He took a long drag on his cigarette and then shook my hand as he exhaled and said, "My sister has custody of Billy now, and I'm just busy trying to stay out of jail." I found it interesting that he described busy-ness as an expression of actively avoiding something. I thought briefly that he spent his whole adult life as busy as possible to avoid taking real responsibility for his son and his life. Rather than express my thoughts, I just remembered to myself that he had epilepsy and had limited cognitive skills as I smiled and said, "Nice to see you, John."
Billy was as happy as I have ever seen him - smiling, interactive, imitative, and very purposeful in his play. Still, he was 36 months old and functioning at an approximate 18 month old level in all areas. John asked, "Is that a problem - is that a lot of delay?" I automatically started to answer that it was a 50% delay in his skill development, but I imagined that the numbers wouldn't make sense so I instead said, "You know, John- there are a lot of things that Billy ought to be doing now that he can't. Things like feeding himself with the spoon, being able to stack blocks, and beginning to tell us when he needs a diaper change." John's eyebrows knitted together in concern, and he seemed to understand. "So he probably needs therapy, huh?" he asked. I was glad that he was conversing and interested, so I told him, "Probably, John. Therapy wouldn't be a bad idea to try to catch him up some." John understood plain talk.
I was a little disappointed that 'the system' didn't take care of Billy. Technically, the change in custody shouldn't have impacted anything, but Billy went several months with no therapy because he 'aged out' of early intervention and he was never referred to the school district. Mom was apparently unable to meet his needs and complete the transitional paperwork, so Billy was only treated like a number that was billed at the end of each month. When the funds dried up, the interest in Billy dried up too. Billy just fell through the cracks until someone thought to re-refer him for services.
Billy seems happy for now though, and he is no longer within line of sight of that bridge and its toll. Instead, he is living in the part of the town that has a large landfill that makes the biggest 'hill' in the city. I am frightened to know what is buried under all that dirt, and I wonder why workers walk those 'hills' in chem suits. When I drive by, I often think that there will never be a shortage of work for me in this city. This is not a good thing.
Some kids can never catch a break, I guess.