- The Boy Who Loved Windows
Almost as soon as her son, Walker, was born, Patricia Stacey feared something was amiss. Averse to touch and noise, uninterested in food, unpredictable about sleeping, Walker was decidedly not a comfortable baby. Desperate for answers about what troubled their son and eager for effective mechanisms to placate him, Stacey and her husband, Cliff Resnick, connected with the state's early childhood intervention program (REACH in Massachusetts) when Walker was just six months. Soon thereafter, those professionals deemed Walker to be at high risk for autism (diagnoses of autism are never definitively pronounced in children so young). Within REACH, Stacey found avid supporters amongst the morass of a tangled social services system. Arlene, Walker's physical therapist, helped Stacey comprehend Walker's urgent need for support to learn to integrate information through all of his senses, despite his extreme sensitivities to touch and sound and light. She stressed how vital it was to capture this baby's attention; Walker had to be able to focus upon the external world in order to learn. Stacey writes, "Cliff, Elizabeth and I made up songs and dances. Walker at times was beginning to watch. But what was the point of over stimulation? What was the trigger that sent him reeling away from us into the internal landscape? That was always the challenge, the paradox, the danger—that the treatment could also be the poison."
Equipped with keen awareness of her daunting task, Stacey set off on a journey through the maze of what medicine, special services, and alternative approaches to healing had to offer in a quest to connect her son to the world beyond him. In The Boy Who Loved Windows, Stacey chronicles Walker's immense struggles—to make eye contact, to acquire language, upper body strength, a healthy appetite, and facial cues—and even greater triumphs—he now attends a regular elementary school.
When Walker was seven months old, at the behest of a friend, Stacey brought Walker to meet Lenore Grubinger. Grubinger, a practitioner of [End Page 113] Body-Mind Centering—a system of bodywork, developmental movement, and healing arts developed by a former occupational therapist—specialized in working with infants. At the end of their first meeting, Grubinger wrote a list of things to do for Walker that included compressing the baby into a ball—"flexion," Grubinger called it. Stacey reflected upon that first session: "For Lenore, the body seemed to be a map. On it she somehow read the workings of Walker's mind the way astronomers read time past in the stars. It seemed that for Lenore, the body and the mind must be mirrored universes—it is as if the mind were the clouds and the body were the lake. When you look into the body, you see a reflection of the mind, the way clouds appear in a clear pool on a sunny afternoon." Stacey was becoming aware that this excursion required that she begin to decipher maps she hadn't before imagined might exist.
The most famous expert Stacey and Resnick sought out was Dr. Stanley Greenspan, a renowned psychiatrist with a promising record in helping autistic children. The couple and their 11-month-old son made a pilgrimage to Greenspan to learn about "floor time" sessions, the earmark approach critical to Greenspan's success. There, Greenspan urged of their play, "Make it fun, joyful. But you also want to get the rhythm faster." Relationships, Greenspan explained, represent the heart of play, and the pacing of inter-actions was a significant factor in negotiating social relationships. He demonstrated how specific games demanded Walker's emotional engagement. Stacey writes, "If Walker was interested in a chain of measuring spoons, we would use that interest to make ourselves interesting. . . . As long as Walker was 'with us,' as long as he was attending to our world, was learning to be interactive, we followed the lead." Walker began, for the first time, to laugh with his parents. Stacey's descriptions of certain moments for Walker—those representing his challenges...