Saturday, February 14, 2009

The charmer

There was a bill being introduced to the Health, Education, Welfare and Insurance committee in our state. The bill would define autism as a medical condition under state law. Heretofore, it had been defined as a psychiatric illness. The insurance companies were strongly opposed to it as it was viewed as a bill through which mandatory coverage of autism would be introduced. To be sure that was part of the issue, but it was not all. As long as autism is seen as a psychiatric illness, it will be seen as incurable. Also, all autistics would carry a stigma that, as adults would bar them from any position that would not allow anyone who suffered a psychiatric illness to hold.

I was asked to testify to the committee and since David was known in the autistic community for his ebulience, I was asked to bring David. David's first grade teacher, the same one he had for kindergarten thought it would be a good idea. David and I arrived to a heated atmosphere. One of the mothers had just finished testifying about how she had to quit her job so that she could qualify for medicade and get the state's help to pay for her daughter's treatment. That was not well received by the members of the HEWI committee. Before that there was acrimony and bickering between the autism community and the insurance companies. It was not going well at all.

Finally it came our turn to testify. David sat in my lap as I set myself in front of the microphone to begin answering the committee's questions. As I was beginning to answer the first question, David stood up in my lap and started to tap on the microphone.

"David play da microphone? Yes, David play da microphone. One, two, fi, four, five, five, four, fi, two, one. He continued blowing in the microphone while I continued trying to answer the HEWI committee's questions. The HEWI committee got a real kick out of him. Finally, I put David in the chair next to me and asked him to sit quietly while I finished answering the committee's questions. All the while I finished answering the questions David continued to smile up at the committee. I did all the talking, but I was completely upstaged by David. It was a good thing too. David's smile and his antics turned the atmosphere in the committee around. It was like a secret weapon. The bill soared through the committee and passed through the senate and the house. David's name was in the paper the next day with appropriate credit given to him for providing the testimony that got the bill through.

Several weeks later the bill was being signed by our governor. The signing was scheduled for 10:00 and it was after 11:00 when the governor finally arrived in his office for the signing. All that time, I had to carry David on my shoulders or in my arms even though he was six years old. This was necessary because otherwise David would be off at my first inattentive second. Then I would be searching all over the capital building for him. By the time the governor arrived in his office my arms were like rubber. My family is afflicted with a condition known as familial tremors. It is a shakiness of the hands that is passed from father to son and to a lesser extent to daughters. I have it. My father had it and David has it as well. It gets worse with stress and the stress of keeping David in place in my arms for over an hour was quite a stress. When I finally shook the governor's hand, it was like grabbing a jack hammer for the governor. He quickly withdrew and was staring at his hand. I made a quick exit with David. I wish I had David's charm. Perhaps I could have handled it better.

No comments:

Post a Comment