Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The 1%

In the last few weeks, we’ve heard a lot about “the 1%”, referring to the wealthiest among us in America. The confident men and clever women among us who have risen to the top.

I was recently reminded of another 1%. Last year, Henry scored in the 1st percentile for expressive speech. At 3, he could barely put two words together and no one but his father, sister, and I could decipher any of it.

So what happens when a family with a long line of confident men and clever women meets a child who seems born from another age and another world. A world where all the tests are not assuredly passed. Where all the lines aren’t colored neatly within. A somehow softer, richer, deeper world.

They are at first baffled, later intrigued, and finally, romanced. Like a respectable woman of decades past witnessing a modern art exhibit for the first time.

She stands before the canvas as her upright and proper voice narrates: This doesn’t fit here. This doesn’t suit my understanding of how things work at all. It’s quite inconvenient to tell you the truth. But…it is actually almost pretty…if you look at it in a certain kind of way. She leans her head slowly as her eyes sharpen their focus. Yes, I can see it. It’s quite beautiful, really.

I was beyond baffled when I first saw Henry’s canvas. I was upright and proper and angry. For the first two years, he didn’t fit here. He didn’t suit my understanding of how things work at all. It was quite inconvenient to tell you the truth. But-

Henry turned four this weekend. He recently scored in the 50th percentile in speech. For us, a birthday is an opulent occasion to praise the canvas. Through meltdowns and food refusals and not being potty trained and still wanting to sleep in my bed and too loud, too bright, too much - I manage to be completely romanced.

Henry romances us with a je ne sais quoi that comes from his softer, richer, deeper world. And I am confident he would not be all that he is without his history of “multiple misarticulations involving numerous phonological processes”.

The artist has something extraordinary in mind, even if I don’t get it. So here’s to gazing at the messy masterpiece. Happy Birthday, buddy.

A version of this post originally appeared on the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation blog, October, 2011