“Mmmm..yeah. It does.” I said, smiling.
“Later,” she said, and then she was gone. Benny had stopped laughing and he was back to rocking mode. It was over..for now. I turned to the staff that remained.
“That’s it, people. No take downs today. But…thanks for coming.” The four therapy aides backed out of the room slowly, still keeping their eyes on Ben.
“Rick…?” I turned to face Barbara.
“I don’t know, Barb,” I shook my head. “It’s definitely new, damn if I can figure it out.” I shook my head slowly. “You don’t have to stay. I’ll be fine…I can walk him back to…”
“Puzzle,” Ben cut in. I turned to face him. He stared at me, a look I’d never seen before.
“Puzzle,” he said again. I glanced at Barb, who shrugged her shoulders.
“I don’t have any puzzles, here, guy. “ He smiled and still looking at me, bent down, stretched his body like in a game of ‘twister’. His eyes never left mine as his big hand zeroed in and rested on the marking pencil.
“Puzzle,” he said again. He picked up the red pencil and rolled it between his fingers.
“I’ll take that,” I said, eyeing the sharp point. He started to hand it to me, but pulled back, turned away and began to run towards the behavior graph wall.
“Hey!” I snapped. I reached out and caught him by his big belt buckle, before he reached the wall.
“You don’t grab things from people, Benny.” I snatched it out of his hand.
“Puzzle,” he said again. He snatched the pencil back, but then immediately shoved it into my hand.
Then it clicked. “Oh, a trade in,” He smiled and began flapping his hands. I turned back to Barbara.
“He’s been earning puzzles for tracing his name. He trades in the pencil for the puzzle when he’s done.” But Barb wasn’t listening. She had that look. She was staring at the wall where I posted my client’s behavior graphs. I was so distracted watching her, I didn’t see Ben come up behind me. He grabbed the pencil from my hand and ran to the graphs.
“Benny!” But it was too late. He ran to the graphs and began to mark one up with the pencil. I was just about to shove him away when I realized it he was marking his graph. His graph.
To insure consumer confidentiality, the graphs weren’t labeled by name. And even if they had been, Ben couldn’t read. To an outside observer, my graph wall was an abstract painting. Each individual behavior was color coded. Self-stimulatory behaviors such as rocking and hand-flapping, and finger-flicking, were indicated by orange, yellow and blue lines. Red was reserved for self-injurious biting, scratching or head-banging.
I had a caseload of fifteen consumers, and collectively they had the range of stereotypical of behaviors associated with autism. All those behaviors were color-coded on my wall. It took a sophisticated data based program to find patterns. There was no way to distinguish one graph from another. But Benny had zeroed in on his. Silently I watched as he retraced the red lines of his graph. He would trace, stop, close his eyes and rub the pencil between his fingers. That was…familiar.
“Rick..?” Her voice made me jump. I’d forgotten she was there. I slowly turned to face her.
“Yeah, Barb? What?” But she couldn’t answer me. Her eyes had gone glassy wide, her face had lost some color and there were beads of sweat on her forehead. I moved quickly and got a chair and gently helped her sit.
“You, okay?” She was still looking past me, staring at Ben as he traced the graph lines. I knew that look. She was there in body but her mind was gone. It was occupied with a problem concerning one of “her people,” as she liked to call the consumers. It was a look I’d grown to respect. She slowly moved her gaze from Benny to me. Her eyes locked onto mine.
“I’ve got a tape. You should see it. Please.” Barb never said please. She was always about business. Direct and curt, but she was one of the most caring people I’d ever met.
“Sure.” I nodded towards Ben. Just let me get him back to where he belongs. I’ll meet you in multi-media.” I studied her face a moment. “Need help?”
“No…thanks…I’ll be…fine. She rose slowly from the chair, took a breath, and steadied herself. She looked past me and stared at Benny once more before she left. Whatever it was, it wouldn’t let go.
(to be continued)…
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Joseph Trance.
Published on e-Stories.org on 20.06.2009.