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Free ebooks ==> Sophie 185 Sophie had to learn so much more—to go to stores without fear, to go to school without anxiety. Manners she can probably do without. During those difficult early school years, when Sophie resisted going to school, the mornings were particularly troublesome for Marianne. She had to struggle with Sophie, get her clothes on, encourage her to eat her breakfast and get her out the door to catch the school bus. Often Sophie put up so much resistance that she was late for the bus and Marianne had to drive her to school. Part of the problem was that Marianne felt so much pressure to get things done that much of the morning would be wasted and the many things she had to accomplish that day would be postponed. But once Marianne gave herself time, and the gift of not trying to do everything, her sense of pressure decreased and Sophie became more compliant. Now she was able to get Sophie off to school in a good mood—a major accomplishment for both of them. Greg and Marianne have learned to accommodate to Sophie’s perspective on the world. They’ve learned to read her signals and to respond to the subtlest forms of nonverbal communication—her grunts, her pointing, her rocking, and her pacing around. These were all indications of some desire or need. Above all they know her routines and her favorite toys, foods, and activities, so they are able to anticipate the meaning of her requests. They sometimes give in to Sophie’s demands, recognizing that she has no way to communicate her distress other than by having a temper tantrum, so giving in also teaches Sophie the value of communication. This is all part of Sophie’s difficulty in modulating her emotions to the environment. Once her parents understood that, it became easier to tolerate the occasional upheavals. They also learned to see that progress can be measured in small changes that others might overlook. One day she stopped picking up branches on the way to the library. Another day she pointed to a horse in the field while they were driving home. These accomplishments and changes were a great joy to them. These small steps forward were often not visible to others, but her parents could see them and could use them as a buttress against the despair they sometimes felt. They never doubted that Sophie loved them, though she could never communicate that in the traditional way. She would put her arm around her Mom and Dad, stick close to them in unfamiliar and strange environments, sit beside them while watching TV or when she was feeling unwell. If she seemed to reject them at other times, they never doubted that she loved them. She never said “I love you” to them, but of her feelings they had no doubt. They were able to imagine her love and need for them. But most important, they

186 A MIND APART smiled at her, not only at her eccentricities but also at her courage in going to school even if the teacher was disparaging to her. There were many embarrassing moments in those early years. Once, Sophie took her clothes off in the department store. Seeing the looks on the prim and proper citizens of this small town, eyes riveted at this spectacle of a naked girl running up and down the aisles, brought smiles to their faces. At the time, they were quite upset to be sure, but time gives perspective and with perspective comes the distance to be amused. Sophie improved slowly with time. Although she is still largely nonverbal, she has shown more motivation to communicate using signs and a picture exchange system, and she seems to understand more. She still loves feathers and sticks and loves to fit things together, such as pencils and springs. She also likes to paint with feathers and to look at books. Sophie will not go to the bathroom without a book about the Simpsons. She loves Maggie, the baby, because of the frequent tears she sheds. Sophie enjoys listening to her parents’ old rock and roll records from the ’70s, especially the Woodstock album. She plays some chords on the piano and will sit through an entire church service as long as she is allowed to play the piano at the end. She likes to be with people, especially adults in her extended family. She likes to touch others and to put her arm around her mother’s waist, although she still does not like to be touched herself. Her mother says, “She is a very loving child in her own way.” It’s the “in her own way” that marks the process of acceptance without resignation. Her parents can read these behaviors as expressions of love, even though they might not be recognized as such by others. And it doesn’t matter. The ability to see behavior not traditionally associated with feelings of love but being able to imagine, to discern its purpose in this context, is what is important. This is what leads to a sense of hope that avoids resignation and despair. There is meaning in these behaviors—there is a communication, a language—if only the code can be broken. These parents were able to break that code once they accepted that there was a different language. Just the other day, Sophie participated in drama class. She pretended to be a baby-sitter looking after a crying infant. She fed the doll, cuddled her, and wrapped her in a blanket. She made the teacher and her classmates smile as they could recognize that this was something new and special. When she was done, they all clapped their hands enthusiastically in appreciation. Sophie beamed with delight and wanted to stay on the makeshift “stage.” Her new teacher had to lead her off to let someone else have a turn but wrote about this story with great en-

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