Autism Diaries: *lowering* heart rates

My friend’s recent request that J once again accompany her on a visit to see her ailing mother reminds me of this old Out In Left Field post.

More recently, I should add, this friend gave J the ultimate vote of confidence by allowing him to push her baby daughter around the zoo in a stroller by himself while she and I were manned a booth for Autism Awareness Month.

Autism Diaries: reversing heart rates

J spent at least the least the first 15 years of his life relentlessly raising the heart rates of everyone around him. In years 1-5, he’d constantly throw things around and break them; turn appliances off (the lights in the evening; the refrigerator and/or freezer) or on (the heat in summer; burners); run into other people’s yards or ahead of us into the street (face turned towards us, grinning); push and grab people and poke them in the eye; and vanish in pursuit of ceilings fans. In years 5-10 he’d disrupt his classes and alienate his teachers; charge through crowded hallways and thoroughfares, force random people’s fingers into the hand shape for the number two (a bizarre obsession); bother the heck out of his siblings; and vanish in pursuit of ceilings fans. In years 10-15 he continued to disrupt his classes and alienate his teachers and charge through crowds, as well as engaging in increasingly sophisticated mischief and vanishing in pursuit of ceiling fans.

Fast-forward a few years. The mother of a dear friend who works with J has been in the ICU all week. And so she, too, has been in the ICU all week, at her mother’s side.

But she misses J tremendously–as she often does when separated from him for more than a few days. She misses, in particular, the fresh air and levity he provides when times are tough: his innocent questions (“How is your mom’s heart?”) and hopes (“When she gets better, do you think we can go to the restaurant with fans?”). So, two days ago, she asked if I could drop him off near the hospital so that she and her mother (another fan of J’s) could “get some J time.”

Afterwards she wrote me a text message commemorating what has to be one of the biggest milestones we’ve seen in his 18 years:

I am literally in tears over how sweet J is. Thanks for sharing him with us. He was a calming presence and brought my mom’s heart rate down to the lowest it’s been since she got here.

Who could ever have predicted that, 18 years on, J could not only provide comfort when times are tough, but enter an ICU and bring someone’s heart rate down?

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