Friday, June 15, 2012

The Starfish

There are many different versions of this story. 
Apparently it was originally part of a longer essay by Loren Eiseley on human nature.

Once upon a time there was a wise man
who used to go to the ocean to do his writing.
He had a habit of walking on the beach
before he began his work.

One day he was walking along the shore.
As he looked down the beach,
he saw a human figure 
moving like a dancer.

He smiled to himself to think
of someone who would
dance to the day.
So he began to walk faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he saw
that it was a young man,
and the young man wasn't dancing,
but instead he was reaching down to the shore,
picking up something
and very gently throwing it 
into the ocean.

As he got closer he called out,
"Good morning! What are you doing?"
The young man paused,
looked up and replied,
"Throwing starfish in the ocean."

"I guess I should have asked,
why are you throwing starfish in the ocean?"

"The sun is up and the tide is going out.
And if I don't throw them in they'll die."

"But, young man, don't you realize that
there are miles and miles of beach
and starfish all along it.
You can't possibly make a difference."

The young man listened politely,
then bent down, picked up another starfish
and threw it into the sea,
past the breaking waves.

"I made a difference to that one."

I first heard this story while studying education at IU, and for me it exemplified why I wanted to be a teacher.  I wanted to help others. I knew I couldn't reach every child, but changing even a few lives would be enough and would bring meaning to my own.

Now as an Autism mom, this story means even more to me. I had no idea what an impact Autism would have on my sense of self and purpose. There are so many starfish out there, gasping for air on the mysterious beach called Autism.  They are so close to the water that could help them, if only someone would come along and pick them up, and put them in. Each one that I can touch is a life changed.

Sometimes I think maybe my blog posts come across as arrogant, as if I have all the answers.  I just want to say that I don't. I struggle every day to try to figure out the best choice about each decision I make. It's hard to know what's working, and with Autism it seems like there are always two steps forward, and one step back. Or two steps back, then three forward. : )  

The worlds of Autism and nutrition have so many grey areas. There's no one solution, and each child is different.  I've certainly seen that with Rylie. The GFCF diet wasn't enough. Taking away rice milk wasn't enough. She still had constant diarrhea and illness.  I've had to keep trying, continue to learn more, seek more experts, get more opinions. I'm not going to settle for her being sick all the time. It's not fair to her when there's the possibility that she could be healthy, if only I could figure out which ocean is Rylie's little ocean, where she will thrive.  We'll keep walking 'till we get there, my little starfish. Don't worry, Mama's got ya. We've still got lots more beaches to try. : )

Me and the Rylie girl

Already this morning, after just one week of trying the SCD diet (and not doing a great job of it) she had a formed BM, her first probably since January.  This gives me great hope that I'm two footprints closer to the right beach and the right ocean for my Rylie. Hayden, meanwhile, is swimming and splashing and having a wonderful time in his own ocean.  He's not what I'd consider fully Recovered from Autism.  But he's in the right ocean, and a long, long way from the plain, dry, Autism Beach. Now he just needs time to soak in there and let it all get sorted out.

Maybe what worked for my children won't work for yours.  But the journey starts with learning what options are out there, and trying something.  Because trying matters. I get frustrated when I see people like the man in the story, who see all the starfish on the beach and don't even try.  They hear the word Autism and they sit down and take a nap. You won't fix everything with Autism, or with Life. Nothing's ever perfect.  But small gestures do matter. And when we're talking about changing a person's quality of life, these small things are everything.

If nothing else in my life, I will be able to say, "I made a difference to that one."  Two ones, actually.  : )  Like I said, maybe it sounds like arrogance, but I don't mean it to be. It's just a small bit of pride in a time in my life when it's hard to find things to be proud of.  But I'm proud of what I've been able to do for my children, and I enjoy sharing that journey with others, in the hopes that a few more 'starfish' will be saved.

Some of our local starfish testing the waters. 

For more information on Autism and diet, see The Autism Diet page 
or TACA's  Going GFCF in 10 Weeks.  

Go ahead, toss a few starfish.  See what happens.   : )



Daniel Hile said...

Excellent post. Looking forward to seeing you guys in July.

Sheila Damron said...

Thanks Dan! Let's plan something for that first week in July!

Sheila Damron said...

If you're interested, I'm apparently having a heated discussion about this Starfish topic over on another blog:

myboysmyheart said...

I love that. I've only heard it recently but it rings so true to my perspective on this whole biomed treatment for autism debacle. I'm a few years past u in the process and I will say this: the place where my son is now at six , the conversations we can have, the twinkle in his eyes, the happy, determined, positive attitude he has toward every challenge now, the many accomplishments that have built his self esteem back up, the bond w his brother, the free feeling of no longer dealin w sensory issues, the healthy appetite to enjoy food, the impact a good nights sleep has on his behavior, & the affection that is expressed constantly question, without a doubt, undeniably, 100% made The years of struggle, difficulty, tireless work, exhausting research,unending obstacles,cooking from scratch, shopping at 4 diff places, learning about countless supplements, explaining info to everyone, teaching how to use new tools, working so long on such simple goals, and heartache watching ur child struggle....the years I thought only if he could.....were absolutely,positively, unequivocally, so so so so so so very worth it!!!!!! U r on the right track! Keep it up, u r doing gr8! And in the future all ur hard work will pay off in the form of watching ur child become himself,show himself to the world,& finally finally u get to learn who he really is. Our starfish deserve it.

Sheila Damron said...

Thanks! It's always great to hear that there are other success stories out there and that it's worth all the hard work to get our kids back!

:) Sheila

Sheila Damron said...

Also, in regards to the question of "Can Autism be cured?"...

IMHO it's not a cure I'm looking for, but a better life for my children. I do understand the POV of Autistic people who take offense, because they see my comments as trying to remove part of who they are. I can see autistic qualities in myself, and I don't know that they necessarily need to be "cured."

But I would hope that people with Autism could also see my POV as a mother of a child who, for some time, had no hope for a future as a contributing member of society. Now he has the possibility of having a job, and a family, and to communicate with others. If you are able to communicate with us on FB, you may have no need of some of the interventions I'm in favor of. But for children and adults who are non-verbal, I fully support trying non-invasive therapies in order to improve their quality of life. It's not about changing their positive characteristics, it's about improving the negative ones (non-verbal, hitting others, inability to dress oneself, and constant diarrhea, for example.)

Sheila Damron said...

For me it's about making a difference to someone who appreciates that you tried, not trying to change people who are happy the way they are.