"We Battle Constantly Over Our Autistic Child"

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His Turn, Continued

"Let's get something else straight: I was not dismissing Randi's concerns four years ago and I'm not doing it now. I just don't get as riled up as she does or worry myself sick about something that may not happen. It's true that when she first started saying that Max wasn't normal I was angry. What's 'normal'? Every kid develops at a different rate, boys later than girls. Comparing Max to Molly made no sense to me. Another reason I hung back was that I hate the idea of slapping a label on a kid. Once you do, everyone treats him differently and it's rarely nice.

"By the time Max was 2 1/2, though, he was so noticeably different from Molly that I knew Randi was right. The problem is, she and I approach things very differently. Is it so terrible to bend the rules a little and give the kid a break? Do you know what it's like to see your child screaming because he doesn't want to put the puzzle piece in the right hole? Max's therapy is like Marine boot camp: It's painful to watch. If he gets up from his seat, the aide picks him up and puts him back down over and over again. He looks like he's being tortured -- which is why, if we just hang out together for four hours and don't say two words to each other, I don't care. I just want to be his dad.

"I grew up solidly middle-class. My parents ran a stationery store and were proud they could put my older brother and me through college. We never took fancy summer vacations but we did go camping every year. Our cabin in the mountains reminds me of those camping trips. I resent Randi's insinuation that I don't care about Max because I don't want to sell it. I feel a serenity there that I can't capture anywhere else on earth. That's why I joined a gym, too. Exercise keeps me sane. Randi used to understand that. Now we're on opposite sides of just about every issue.

"I worry about Molly, too. She's a terrific big sister but it's tough when you see your parents tearing into each other all the time and your brother getting most of the attention. It's hard to explain to a 9-year-old why she always has to let her brother have the last chocolate cookie just to keep the peace.

"Not that there's much peace to keep around our house these days. The Randi I fell in love with is smart and funny and wonderful to be with. Deep down I know we still love each other, but somewhere along the line we've lost that love."

Continued on page 5:  The Counselor's Turn


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