Being involved in the world of autism, there are many questions that I have that are left unanswered, and I don’t mean questions like “What the heck IS autism anyway?” (of course that is an unanswered question that I have…) but I mean questions like why the color blue? And why trains? (those I can understand a little), but why rainbows? And what is so terrible about the birthday song anyway? And I will admit (with the risk of sounding loony) that on more than one occasion I have had conversations with other teachers/consultants/therapists that went like this…
Teacher: “My kids were a little off yesterday.”
SG: “Was there a full moon last night?”
Teacher: “No, and I checked. There wasn’t a full moon.”
I am resigned to the fact that the answers to most of these questions can or never will be answered via research or a carefully designed study, and have thus been practicing what many careful observers in this autismworld practice…developing theories. Theories that would most likely be considered nutty to the scientific community…
In the past, many plants have fallen victim to my self proclaimed very-non-green thumb…Needless to say, on a weekend visit to my grandparents about four years ago, my grandmother insisted, as she always does, that I pick out a piece of furniture from her house so that she could give it to me right then and there (you know, before she dies…her words). I am always torn when she does this, as I know she really wants me to have something, yet I don’t want to just take pieces of her furniture, as she is not
dead and she and my grandfather are still using
their furniture. So on this particular hot July day, for some reason or another, I decided that it was time for me to attempt to be a non-killing plant owner once again and I told her that now that she mentioned it, my place could use some more life, and maybe I could have one of her plants, as I really liked the idea of having something that belonged to my grandparents and was LIVE…it seemed kind of special. She loved the idea, as I thought she might and she carefully chose one of her plants that had been with my grandparents for 15 years and survived 2 moves with them that included both snow and very hot weather. I was extremely pleased with her choice as well, until after my three hour trip home in my un-airconditioned black jetta, I saw that over half of the leaves had completely wilted, and I devastated at the fact that I had killed my grandparents plant, that I was so determined to keep alive.
I immediately called the boyfriend, as he had grown up working in the family business, a flower shop in East Los Angeles. I had often heard him, his brothers and dad talk about flowers and plants and what kind of climate and weather they “liked”, yet thought nothing of it. When he came over, he looked at the plant and immediately started cutting off the dead leaves, as well as about half of the remaining leaves that I thought were perfectly fine. I was horrified, yet he insisted that these leaves needed to be cut off as they were already dead, and that despite the fact that the plant looked hopeless, it was going to be fine. Over the next few moths he continues to nurture, water, re-pot,and rotate the plant and I paid a little but not much attention to it, until one day, a couple months later, I looked up and noticed that the plant was not only really, really alive, but beautiful and thriving! I was truly amazed and over the course of the next few years, my apartment began to fill with more and more living green plants, under the careful eye of my boyfriend…”the cactus likes it that room,” he would tell me…uh, okay. "This one likes this corner"…it does?, I would think. Our Saturday morning ritual has been that while I make breakfast, he waters, rotates and trims all of my now 17 plants (I say “my”, because it is my apartment…he has his own)…he ALWAYS takes his time, and nurtures my plants, and they have always THRIVED. Last summer, Boyfriend was going to be spending 2 months out of state and left me with careful instructions about my plants (how to water them, how often to rotate them, places in my apartment each liked, etc.). After nearly a month, I was quite proud that I had followed the instructions to a tee and all of my plants were still alive, yet at the same time, when I looked around at them I could tell that they were not nearly as happy as they had been before…they were a little droopy and not nearly as lively. They weren’t dying, just not as beautiful and healthy as they had been before I took over their care. I remember looking at them one day and realizing how amazing it was that they were actually ALIVE, and how these, seemingly
minor details, such as love, attention, observation and care made such a huge difference. I remember the impact it made when I realized how these living things that DIDN’T SPEAK, responded to attention and energy. It was at this moment, I realized the importance of these often overlooked, unresearched things such as love, observation and respect that actually made a world of difference to a LIVE, breathing growing entity.
Lessons like these, (the ones that take forever to learn because they don’t beat you over the head, yet are subtle and profound), always have a pervasive impact on my life…I have incorporated this lesson into my work, and have found that it makes quite an impact. Despite the fact that there are many professionals that think I am being strange, I will never speak negatively of any of the kids I work with and when in their presence, always speak as if everything I say is being heard and understood by them (I am quite certain that on some level it is). I only entertain loving and positive thought about my children, and attempt to be a constant observer of how much water they need, what parts of the room they like to be in, what I say about them and how I treat them. I am sure that they respond to my energy and my belief in their potential, and have learned from the resilience of my grandmother’s plant to never, ever give up on or underestimate the power of life and to always remember to love and nurture it.