Things that happen at 2am

It was very early in the morning - so early that it was actually still nighttime.  Of course this is not an appropriate time for any rational person with a daytime schedule to be awake, but I couldn't sleep so it seemed that the most sensible thing to do would be to go food shopping.  Don't ask.

Anyway, as I strolled up and down the aisles I was lost in thought regarding how decisions were made for product placement on shelves and whether or not the items I would be interested in would be at my eye level.  In my dreamy 2am somnambulatory state I felt an unexpected tap on my shoulder that caused me to whirl around suddenly to see who was interested in getting my attention.

"Good evening, sir!" said the unfamiliar face of a 30 something year old young man.  The voice was not familiar either.  Then I squinted and tilted my head just enough to catapult me back to 1992 when I knew Aaron.  Amazingly, the haircut was the same and was the predominant feature that sparked my recognition.  His closely cropped hair pointed out from his forehead in an unmistakable whorl pattern going in three different directions at the same time.  Aaron had to be the only person on the planet with that hair.

In 1992 I was still cutting my teeth and was a newbie occupational therapist; Aaron was one of the first children that I evaluated using the SIPT.  I quite honestly don't remember a lot about his needs other than he had some learning difficulties and a Mom who was interested in doing everything she could to help her child.  I remembered that he was quite a character even as a young child.  He would crack a joke about anything, would always be looking for funny things to laugh at, and in general thought that most of the world and its inhabitants were hilarious.  But more than anything I remember his hair, and as I stared at it all I could think to ask is "Aaron??!!  Oh my goodness - How do you even remember me!???"

"Actually I stalked you," he replied, half seriously.  "I moved up here around six months ago and I kind of meant to come visit and I saw your Facebook page!"

I have had a few people 'find' me via social media who I treated as children.  It is always an interesting mix of "OH YEAH!" recognition and then almost always fun memories of their therapy time.  It is really interesting to me to hear perspectives of people now that they are adults and the things that they remember most.  Some remember the swings.  Some remember a favorite puzzle.  Some remember funny things like a chair in the waiting room.

Aaron didn't want to talk about any of that.  He wanted to talk about now.  "Yeah, my life pretty much sucks right now.  I have this s***** job, my girlfriend just left me, I'm a drug addict, and I am still living in my mother's basement."

What do you say to an adult that unloads that information right after reintroducing themselves?

I think that we lack some long term perspectives on what happens to the children that we see in our occupational therapy practices.  I read a great book right around the time I was seeing Aaron titled "Learning disabilities and psychosocial functioning: A neuropsychological perspective" by Rourke and Fuerst.  It is a great book that still sits on my shelf in my office.  The book has a lot of information in it about the long term prospects for people who have learning and emotional and other difficulties.  At the time I had a sense that the book was probably important and I always tried to remember that their were long term implications for children who have developmental disabilities.  No one in the book had a name though - it was all statistics and probabilities and distributions and potential trajectories.

Twenty years later I was staring into the face of the statistics.  And I didn't know what to say.


Andrew said…
Hey Chris,
Awesome post. I still have a lot of kids that come up to me in the community that I've worked with when they were a child most of them being non verbal with a caretaker or parent with them. It's an awesome feeling though that we made the kinda impact where they actually want to come and say hi!
Barbara @therextras said…
I relate to your 'speechless' response, Chris. Does all the effort in childhood really ever lead to function as an adult?
@Barbara - I hope it does. Sometimes it obviously doesn't. Studying the less than positive outcomes gives us an opportunity to understand trajectory more fully. I think Kielhofner had some really good ideas re: benign and vicious trends - I would like to revisit those again because I suspect there is some important information in those thoughts.
Barbara @therextras said…
I look forward to your 'revisit', Chris. At this time in my career I am revisiting the trajectories toward head control & ability to sit in infants. NOT 'teaching' rolling or crawling or waiting for those milestones to begin sitting & standing.
Barbara @therextras said…
Actually, I should have said: "sensory" effort.

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