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Volume 2, Issue 1
Spring 2006:

Stepping into a New Dimension

Brian T. Maurer

Cell 2 Soul. 2006 Spring; 2(1):a8

Arial View
Photographer: Barry Penchansky
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Antoine St. Exupéry wrote of the airplane pilot taking his craft a step beyond into the unknown:

"We have all known flights when of a sudden, each for himself, it has seemed to us that we have crossed the border of the world of reality; when there has come a premonition of an incursion into a forbidden world whence it was going to be infinitely difficult to return." (Wind, Sand and Stars; p. 16)

The other day in the office I saw a set of twin boys, now twelve years of age, for their annual physical exams. Very routine, you might think, but in this instance both boys are autistic. Their mother has brought them in year after year for check-ups; I rarely see them otherwise.

Now that they've reached puberty, their behavior has deteriorated somewhat. The mother reported that they've become more difficult to control at school and at home.

The family recently had a new house built with a spacious apartment above the garage where the boys spend the majority of their time. There they can argue and bicker between themselves; the arrangement has served to provide some respite for the parents and the older sibling.

When I inquired about the state of the marriage, the mother told me that she and her husband had become like ships passing in the night — he was involved with his work, while she devoted the bulk of her time to the care of the boys.

"I think it's been easier for me," she said. "I accepted things early on. My husband, on the other hand, still has a hard time coming to grips with the fact that both of his sons are autistic."

I thought back to my wife's four pregnancies. With each one we anticipated what the child would be like. Although we didn't know the particulars beforehand, we assumed that each child born would be perfectly healthy. Thankfully, each was.

But what happens when something goes wrong, when the promise of the perfect child is shattered? We hope against hope that somewhere a magic wand will be waved, and everything will be fine.

It doesn't work that way, of course. Sometimes it takes a while for us to realize that we've stepped into another dimension — into a forbidden world whence it is going to be infinitely difficult to return.

If we can accept this fact, like the mother of these autistic twins, we have a much better chance of surviving the rocky road ahead. If not, we risk slipping away into the void.

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