Saturday, 20 December 2008

The special needs woman and the autistic man

This is a picture of Audrey. She is cheerful, kind, honest, loyal and polite. She has mild learning difficulties and epilepsy. She is one of the 30%+ whose epilepsy cannot be totally controlled by medication, and has a fit once a month on average. The fits come with little or no warning and vary in intensity. This means that Audrey is unemployable. At least, that's what everyone believed - everyone, that is, except Audrey. She successfully applied for a course in customer service aimed at adults with learning difficuties. Some months later, one of the course leaders approached me, in my capacity as an employer, about letting Audrey get some work experience as part of her course. Audrey's mother was okay about her coming to my premises because she knew that I had an epileptic son (although Colm rarely fits - the medication works for him). I agreed to give it a try, and the end result was that in 2001, Audrey became one of my employees. She still is.

It turned out that my older son, Colm, knew Audrey. They had both attended a local club for disabled adults when Colm lived at home with me. Soon we found out that Audrey had romantic feelings for Colm. Unfortunately, Colm initially didn't fancy Audrey; but over the course of time (and aided by the gift of a giant-size Mars bar every time Audrey met him), he has warmed to the idea. Now he calls her "my girlfriend" and occasionally asks about her. Still, it was a surprise when he asked to see her - to spend an evening with her.

Colm & Audrey have had a few shared evenings before. They have been shopping, gone bowling and dined at Pizza Hut. Always accompanied by me. H
owever, Colm has always been uncomforable when Audrey invaded his personal space or attempted an embrace. But their last "date" was different.

After Colm had asked to go out with Audrey for a few weeks (the delay is to give him time to change his mind), I organised an evening at Asda (a supermarket chain owned by Walmart, US readers). The decrease in Marie's monophobia means that I can get to see Colm more often. Audrey wanted a new game for her Nintendo DS which Marie & I had bought her a couple of years ago. Best gift ever! She loves it! Colm, whose current games console is the Nintendo Wii, wanted to check out the latest game releases, so Asda seemed like a good venue for both of them. Well, we had only just arrived at the computer games department when Colm told me to go and do some grocery shopping. He would look after Audrey, he told me. Colm is familiar with the store, and after making sure that he knew what to do if Audrey had a fit, I left them to be on their own for the first time. Awwwww.

I suppose they were on their own for about 20 minutes, and then they looked me up in the grocery department. Audrey had her arm intertwined with Colm's - and he appeared to be fine with it. Next we went to McDonald's, at Colm & Audrey's request. Here, for the first time, Colm didn't push Audrey away when she put her arm around him. Indeed, he seemed to be almost enjoying it. Later, he even let Audrey give him a peck on the cheek before he went into his house. Both of them had had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

OK, so they aren't exactly sharing passionate nights together, but these are changed times. I had always assumed that Colm would never experience romantic love, but now, who knows?


diver said...

Ah the power of lurv. Nice one, Cupid.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

It's ironic that in a way your unusual life makes you more qualified than most to deal with unusual circumstances. ( I worked re teaching with special needs individuals both school age and older and saw both attitudes and ideas change over the years.

Coffeecup said...

I enjoyed that story very much and found it heart warming. Each and every person deserves love and affection, and as you say, times are changing. It's society's mistake I think to label and make assumptions. Anything is possible and as it should be. Good for him! xxx

Robert said...

Hi diver - you never know where love will rear its (lovely head)

GOK - working with special needs folk makes you a special kind of guy! I agree with you, things have changed massively - for the better! - over the last few decades...but there's some way to go yet...

Hi Steph - nice to hear from you! I'm glad you liked the story, and you're absolutely correct that everyone deserves love. It's not so easy for folk with mental health issues...but I think you know that! However, my story shows that it is not impossible :D

Laura said...

Blossoming love - that's a nice story for a Monday morning!

Gill - That British Woman said...

That is a nice heart warming story, and hopefully their friendship will continue to blossom. Our son has seizures, but its totally controlled by medication and he is an accountant, so it hasn't affected his life in any way. He started with his seizures when he turned 15, right out of the blue. We think it was hormonal, but have never ever found out the true cause of them.

Anyhow, I popped over from Ken's blog to tell you a story about dialects.

We are Cumbrians that live in Canada. We have lived here for nealry 20 years, so have a little Canadian "twang" to the way we speak. Within days of us being back in Britain with our family (fellow Cumbrians) we fall right back into our "Cumbrian" accents and dialects. So it never truly goes away, and I was so surprised when I understood everything that Ken wrote!!

Gill in Canada

Rachael Hale said...

Thats a lovely story Robert, hopefully the friendship will continue and they both remain very happy

maz said...

Aw Robert, a real warm story at Christmas time!
Warms the cockles of your heart!
Good luck to them both.
maz x

Robert said...

Laura, Rachael & maz - thanks for the comments.

Gill - Thanks for the comment and the story. I've got an anecdote about dialects which I'll share on your blog or possibly Ken's - I haven't decided yet.

Casdok said...

How wonderful! :)