So Nat was hurt yesterday by one of his roommates. The roommate had had a meltdown and punched Nat in the chest and also hit the staff person and the other roommate. I was upset about this, especially after hearing that they had to turn around and go home right away. This means they did not get to go to their new friends’ group home.
I gnashed my teeth and felt my anger bouncing around inside my belly, aiming to get out. But I knew I had to control it. My mantra in the end is, “They are Priority One for a reason.” Meaning, the Department of Developmental Services only grants Priority One status and funding to people who are considered very involved with their disability. Nat is pretty wrapped up into his autism. His roommate is, too.
But it does make me feel the limitations of this living situation. When I heard about this I wanted to yank him out, just like in the school days. I am always quick to react and act; I’m only now learning that I don’t have to act right away about things that upset me. So what I did was to call Nat and get a sense of how he was doing. He was okay-ish. His voice was higher-pitched than usual and kind of full. But sometimes he sounds like that when he is laughing. So who knows? Goddammit I wish there were more clarity with this disability. It is the one thing that torments me, the not knowing how he is feeling. The way I have to guess, intuit. Yes, sure, I do a good job tuning into Nat, but I really truly wish I could be certain sometimes.
Luckily, Nat has some excellent staff at his house. John especially. John wrote me that he sat with Nat for most of the evening to guage how he was feeling. He is also very tuned into Nat. He calls Nat his “little brother” even though Nat is probably only a year younger than him. I hear a lot about how we should not infantilize our guys but this is not that. This is an expression of John’s fondness for Nat, and how much he identifies with him. How protective he feels of him. How like family, too.
Nat and the roommates are so well cared for that in the end we do not have to get really worried and upset over the day-to-day problems. Nevertheless, I called and spoke to Nat myself. I reassured him that his roommate was sorry about the punch, and that he would not do it again. How do I know that? I don’t, but I hope. Nat kept saying, “yes,” to everything. Eventually I said, “Do you want me to come over there to be with you?” And he said, “No.” I asked again, reframing it differently in order to be sure I was getting an accurate response. Again he said, “No,” and in fact added that he wanted me to stay in my house. I started to repeat this, to double-check, and suddenly he said, “NOoo,” and then, “Love you, bye.”
He rarely says “love you,” maybe never. I think he has said, “I love you,” previously, but I think it was prompted by staff. This “love you” was not. So, Nat had generalized something I say to him each time we speak on the phone, and he had chosen to slide it in right when he was basically telling me he didn’t need me at this moment. He was looking out for me, as I was for him.
Next time people say that autistic people don’t really care about others, punch them in the chest.