16 people. 16 years.

ABA therapist I do not remember the day when my brother was diagnosed with Autism, but I do remember the day his very first ABA therapist entered my life. I was only six. Christopher was three.

I don’t remember what grade I was in. I don’t remember what I was wearing. I don’t even remember if my mother was pregnant with my sister yet. I remember Sara. Sara was on our back porch with Christopher, and I remember Sara was blond and she was wearing a red t-shirt and jeans.

I asked my mom the strange person was. I remember my mom saying, (and I don’t know if this is really what she said) “That’s Christopher’s new girl.” At six-years-old, knowing myself very well, I probably just shrugged my shoulders then climbed three refrigerator compartments to reach an apple juice box.

I don’t remember how that day ended. I don’t really remember Sara except for that one day. The next two girls I remember were Doi, and Heather. I don’t remember what either of them looked like.

I remember Doi because we took her to Yellowstone, thus beginning a tradition that is still going strong to this day. Though, I do remember one instance when Doi ordered Pizza for my sister and I in Montana and she cut her slice with a knife and fork. I remember thinking “Vegetarians must just do that.”

Heather, I remember only because she was in the backyard with Christopher pushing him on the swings when we met. That was her first day. “Hi my name’s heather.” She said very warm and cheerfully. It made my eight-year-old self shy. “I’m Amanda.” I replied and sprinted as fast as I could back into the house.

The very first fun girl I can remember came when I was nine-years-old. Her name was Lindsay Elliot. She was the daughter of my brother’s speech teacher. I remember Lindsay.  She was always trying to do fun and exciting things with us. One time I remember she walked Christopher, myself, and my best friend, Bri, to the community town square. (This town square is a big deal. It’s got Coach, The Apple Store, American Eagle, Buckle, Lucky, etc.) We thought Lindsay was just too awesome because she let me and my friend split from her and Christopher and we spent most of our time in Animal Cracker.

I must talk now about the Shrek 2 incident. Oh, what a disaster that was. Christopher got bored and threw his popcorn on the people in front of us. He took Whoppers from a fat lady next to him. When Lindsay decided it was time to leave Christopher did five laps around the theater then took for the parking lot, almost caused a crash, and dented Lindsay’s car. Lindsay, being practically an Episcopalian saint, did not quit.

When Lindsay graduated college and started student teaching we hired three more girls, Kourtney, Kristi and Amanda. They all sat at the team meeting and listened to Christopher’s goals and his progress since he was three-years-old to seven-years-old.

Amanda only showed up once and then never called us again.

I remember Kourtney’s first day because that was the day I learned her name was spelled with a K. Bri and I went outside because we honestly thought Elissa (our other best friend) had found her way into my back yard. When we got outside Kourtney said “Hey what’s up. I’m Kourtney with a K.” Bri responded “Oh. Hahaha, We though you were Elissa. She’s in the sixth grade.” I covered my face in embarrassment. Kourtney replied, “It’s okay. When I was in Chili’s Bar the other day nobody got carded but me.”

I already knew what being ‘carded’ meant because my mother looked so young up she was still being carded when I was in the sixth grade. She still occasionally gets carded. Bri had no idea, so Kourtney explained. Kourtney also explained what a ‘Blow Job’ was, and what the lips of a Vagina were. She told us how old she was when she lost her Virginity. She explained to Elissa what Fergie was referring to by ‘lovely lady lumps.’ She told my mother when I cut myself for the one and only time. Kourtney rant to be continued…

Kristi was awesome. She still comes and helps us from time to time. She had so much control over Christopher. I remember one day she took me to the batting cages, and my brother kept grabbing for the bat as if he wanted to try. Kristi wasn’t about to through my brother in there with balls coming at him at 40 miles an hour. So she told him to stand in the batter’s box. He stood there for as long as my hitting round was while Kristi telling him to watch me. When I gave Chris my bat and he went into the 40 mph cage, he didn’t hit anything. Kristi said it was because 40 mph was too slow. I thought she was crazy. She wasn’t. By the end of the day, Kristi had gotten my nine-year-old Autistic brother to hit 12 out of 30, baseballs coming at him at 60 mph.

The next girl we hired was Becca. I don’t remember her first day, but I remember she was, and still is down to earth and real. She still helps us out a lot. She is just a great person. We took her to Disneyworld one year. She had just been given vaccines for a mission trip to Africa. Well, about the third day she got extremely sick as a delayed reaction to the shots. We had to take her to the ER, and eventually send her home. She got better, but still went to Africa. She is a teacher as well.

Christopher at age thirteen has already had five therapists/my cousin. Marty (A boy), Caitlin, Julie, Samantha, and Kourtney (again) and my cousin of course.

Marty quit back in November due to his hectic college schedule, but came back in the summer to help us out. He’s cool. I like him. My dad doesn’t.

Julie was fired for constantly lying to me and my mom. It was the whole, “My phone died. My car wouldn’t start.” kind of stuff. Her car starts when she gets here, and she’s texting constantly. My mom ignored it for the longest time because she is the daughter of a dear family friend. She said one thing to me specifically that did her in. She said her mother took away her phone. She’s nineteen.

Caitlin just stopped coming.

Samantha still works for us. She’s really good. We like her a lot. She brings her dog everyday and my dog tries to eat it. She’s also very good with my brother.

Kourtney quit back in December because she said my friends and I gave her too many problems. We hate her guts, so good riddance. My brother doesn’t need to be around someone like that.

So currently working with my brother are, Marty, Samantha, and my cousin. Though we are going to lose my cousin to student teaching. She is going to be a Spanish Teacher at the Junior High we both went to. Good luck.

Somewhere in the mix, a lady named Cara Beth worked with my brother. She was a great therapist. I don’t remember when she worked with him, but she was amazing with him. She got him to take pills when he was sick and use a calculator. She is from the same town as Kelly Clarkson, and left us when she was married, either that or my mom fired her. I really don’t remember, but she was very good for my brother.

Along with all the therapists there have been twin neighbor girls named Jessica and Meridith that have babysat my brother since he was a baby. We see them every once and a while.

All and all I think that is 15 girls (and a Marty) that have been in and out of my life since I was six. 16 people in ten years. Sometimes I think it has made me more mature to see how other girls (and a Marty) were raised, and slaps me into reality. Hey, you don’t have it that bad Mandie. You’re not 300 lbs, you’re father is not an alcoholic, you didn’t grow up from pay check to check.

But then sometimes I wonder, would I rather be 300 lbs? Would I rather have an alcoholic father who beats the shit out of me then leaves me alone, instead of having a sober, involved father riding my ass because I struck out in the seventh inning stranding Jordan on third. Would growing up from pay check to check give me back my innocence?

I’ve been to England, Amsterdam, New York, LA and numerous other places. Nothing impresses me anymore. Do I blame myself? the money? the girls? my brother? Is anything to blame? My friends think it’s fun to be offered Margaritas at Red Robin. It’s not fun. It isn’t fun to go out with my mom, and be mistaken for sisters. I’m a child! I want to be treated like a child!

People on the outside see my life. They love my brother. They think he’s so adorable, and he is. They see all the girls (and Marty,) and think how fun it would be to have that many big sisters (and Marty.) But, who wants 16 people coming in and out of your live so fast, that you can’t place them?

16 people I can remember. 16 years I have lived.

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0 thoughts on “16 people. 16 years.

  • August 18, 2009 at 9:02 am
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    We never did respite care for my son, although it was once suggested to us. We have something of an extended family, which helped tremendously; yes, life transitions are hard enough for neurotypical kids – harder still for those who have led a mobile life.

    Growing up, I had a lot of experiences that many of my friends had never had, and so I lacked the ability to be a fan or to have a sense of excitement over typical things that kids would enjoy. I also had a sort of lifestyle that would lend to me having as mature of stature as to making my mother and I appear to be more like siblings than mother and daughter.

    For my sons, I’ve also seen stresses between them – they are only a year apart from each other, though the oldest is far more able to conduct himself and far too mature for his age, and the youngest is autistic, and has the inability to grasp some concepts that lends to frustration both on his part and on his brother in trying to cope with the differences.

    It is hard, indeed.

  • August 18, 2009 at 12:42 am
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    Wow!

    Great story about all these people.

    But it can be hard to have people come in and out of your life.

    We ask autistic people to deal with so many transitions … we do not think how hard it is for the people around them too.

    I think your post is probably a good introduction to the idea that many ABA therapists – especially the young ones – are like the rest of us.

    And good luck to your cousin with the Spanish teaching. Many more people, with disabilities and without, are studying languages.

    I can so relate to being a kid at 16 and even more wanting to be a child.

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