Patience is Required for Recovery

"I remembered one morning when I discovered a cocoon in the bark of a tree, just as a butterfly was making a hole in its case and preparing to come out. I waited awhile, but it was too long appearing and I was impatient. I bent over it and breathed on it to warm it. I warmed it as quickly as I could and the miracle began to happen before my eyes, faster than life. The case opened, the butterfly started slowly crawling out and I shall never forget my horror when I saw how the wings were folded and crumpled; the wretched butterfly tried with its whole trembling body to unfold them. Bending over it, I tried to help it with my breath. In vain." "It needed to be hatched out patiently and the unfolding of the wings would be a gradual process in the sun. Now it was too late. My breath had forced the butterfly to appear, all crumpled, before its time. It struggled desperately, and a few seconds later, died in the palm of my hand."

"That little body is, I do believe, the greatest weight I have on my conscience. For I realize today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the eternal rhythm."

butterfly chrysalis
butterfly chrysalis

--Excerpt from "Zorba the Greek", by Nikos Kazantzakis

When I was in my very worst years, struggling with my child who spoke no sounds that even remotely resembled English, and spun in circles all day, who didn't nap, who had difficulty falling asleep, who never stayed asleep, I thought this was the most difficult part of autism. I was wrong.

After making many dietary changes, moving across the country to escape from mold, my son began to come out into the world, speak and engage. He was so immature, and so inappropriate. I thought that this was the most difficult part of autism. I was wrong.

My child had numerous, simultaneous infections: viral, bacterial and fungal. He was treated, and the miracle began to occur. He was the butterfly emerging from the cocoon described above, beautiful, but crumpled, twisted, and couldn't fly like the other butterflies. I had, for the first time, a glimpse of what he had the potential to be, and I wanted to have it all, right away. His illness was done, his eyes bright, his mind lucid and connected, his body, lean without the bloated abdomen and swollen face. The pain of chronic headaches and double vision were a thing of the past.  He needed work, so I started all of my machinations to normalize him as quickly as possible. The frustration began to build. This was not going to be a rapid process.

I came across the above description of the butterfly, which reduced me to tears. Yes, this is the most challenging part of autism recovery. After the illness is over, the waiting for normal development to take its course. How long will it take? Generally, the children pick up from where they left off before their regression, around age 2-3. Normal child development and maturity take years, and after a well-ordered process, the human being is ready to fly. The later in life that a child becomes physically well, the more developmental holes to fill, the more social rules to teach, the more processing challenges to repair.

I am more and more convinced that the difference between those children who recover and those who do not lies in the attitude of the parents who are shepherding the process along.

I will be patient, and confidently obey the rhythm of his development, or I will destroy his spirit.