Pulling Together


Two years

It is now two years to the day since I last saw the boy who was then my step-son. I still remember the look on his face when his father turned up to collect him on a Wednesday. His father never came on Wednesdays, but we had no idea he realised that until we saw his reaction. He knew something was wrong and it worried him.

It was not the first time I had seen him worried by something not making sense to him. I remember how he once stood staring into the corner of a room looking lost. On that occasion it was the time of day which worried him. It seems he couldn’t quite work out whether it was evening or early afternoon. His mother had just tried to put him to bed but he was too troubled to co-operate until he worked out whether that was right or not. We had taken him out in the afternoon that day in addition to his normal morning walk and that had evidently confused him enough to be unsure about the meal he’d just had and what should happen next. I helped him with a simple question; I asked him whether he was confused to have been taken out twice that day. That was enough to allow him to work it all out, and he turned and went to his bedroom content. Until then we had no idea he understood the time of day, that he could understand multi-clause sentences, or words like morning and afternoon, even that he acted with intention according to his understanding of what was appropriate.

During the next year I learnt just how much he understood about the world around him, and how independently he could think. I found he appreciated explanations and advice, although his mother insisted the opposite. I found he would test new ideas for himself. I found he listened to the needs of other people. If warned of danger he would take care and avoid it, though he’d like to test for himself if he could do so safely. None of this was appreciated by his mother, who still kept him isolated from hazards and insisted he must not go near them. This produced friction between them, as he tried to assert his need to understand, or tried to get her attention when she was exhausted trying to restrain him.

When I was alone with him I could tell him about things he needed to know and he’d look out for himself. It was much more relaxing for me and better for him because it boosted his self-confidence and control. I tried to keep him safe by giving him skills. She tried to keep him safe by preventing him acquiring them, since the more helpless he was, the less he could get into places she didn’t want him to go. I might also note the more disabled he is the more benefits he gets.

Sometimes that put him in danger, for deprived of knowledge he would be curious to investigate forbidden items for himself, not knowing why they were dangerous, and sooner or later she’d make a mistake and he’d get past her defences. When that happened he would be highly likely to hurt himself because he didn’t know what to avoid when handling such items. So when he found what appeared to be a pair of plastic tongs he was never allowed near in a room she’d left unlocked, I believe he clamped them round his wrist and burnt himself. I think he would not have done that if he knew they got hot, but no one told him.

I have reason to think this treatment is still going on and I’m very worried for him, but powerless to help, since as an ex-step-parent I have no legal right to contact whatsoever. Of course, I also have the benefit of no responsibilities whatsoever, but that doesn’t stop me worrying. I think of him every day.

One friend tells me to stop thinking about him, but how do I stop thinking about a child in need when I can’t help him? There are so many things I’d like to ask him, so much I’d like to show him, but I can’t. I just hope he finds a way to tell someone, to make them understand and have their help. With the right support I’m sure he can blossom. He’s very bright even if most people can’t see it, and he deserves a chance.

About the Author

K J Petrie has a Full Technological Certificate in Radio, TV and Electronics, an HNC in Digital Electronics and a BA(Hons) in Theological Studies.

His interests include Christian and societal unity, Diverse Diversity, and freedoms from want, from fear, of speech, and of association. He is a member of the Social Democratic Party.

The views expressed here are entirely personal and unconnected with any body to which he belongs.

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