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Expect a Miracle

Dan E. Burns University of North Texas Press PDF

Expect a Miracle

In April of 1995, as Easter approached, I revived my diary. Many of my recollections from this period are based on diary entries.

April 2, 1995. Seven-year-old Ben in tow, I went to a Holy Week healing service with the Reverend Shelley Hamilton, a minister at my church. “Agnes Sanford says, ‘Expect a miracle,’” I reminded her.

“Where is the miracle?”

“The miracle must happen in you,” said Shelley, “and in Ben, and in everyone in your family.” She prayed for me, “God, we challenge you. How long will this man have to stand here at this altar in pain?”

With Easter Sunday just days ahead, I struggled with my faith and with my role in Ben’s recovery. Mom argued that Ben needed to be placed in an institution. “You’ve worked with Ben for a year now,” Mom said, “poured everything you had to give into him.

When others stumbled and fell, you kept going.” I agreed with most of her points: that Ben had not recovered; that he needed a consistent environment; that I could not meet all his needs by myself. Sue couldn’t do it either.

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Doctors to the Rescue

Dan E. Burns University of North Texas Press PDF

Doctors to the Rescue

“I practice three kinds of medicine,” said Dr. Constantine Kotsanis,

gesturing, “right, left, and center. On the right, drugs and surgery.

On the left, energy fields, prayer, and spiritual healing. The center is nutrition, tests, amino acids, pharmaceuticals when you need them.

What kind of treatment do you want for Ben?”

Dr. Kotsanis was an integrative physician and a founding member of Defeat Autism Now!, a society of doctors who pioneered the biomedical approach to treating autism. We had come to enroll Ben in a study that later would become part of the Defeat Autism Now! biomedical protocols, designed to help recover autistic kids.

“We live in a marvelous age,” said Dr. Kotsanis. “Libraries at our fingertips. Cell phones in our pockets. Airplanes to France, Athens,

Madrid. Call anybody, go anywhere.” He looked at me. “So who pays”? He turned around and pointed to Ben. “He pays.”

Dr. Kotsanis’s argument was that toxic waste in our air, food, and water had reached a critical threshold. Autistic kids were canaries in a coal mine. The difference between organized crime and organized medicine was one of degree. HMOs were driven by greed, doctors in the pocket of the drug companies. But no one was blameless.

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Cold War

Dan E. Burns University of North Texas Press PDF

Cold War

Joining forces for Ben, Sue and I looked for a place to settle in

together. During the spring of 1997, I drew circles and lines on the map—school, Bachman Recreation Center, routes to work. All pointers intersected at a block of older apartments just a short hike from

Gooch Elementary, Ben’s school. The once-proud apartments, gone to seed and drug dealers, were being gutted and renovated, like me.

Southern-mansion style, low-rise, verandas, hanging gardens, oversized rooms, lavish space; real plaster on the foot-thick walls, steel and brick superstructure built to last a century. Bay windows looking out on the oak-shaded lawn. Playground and a swimming pool just around the corner. Foliage at the bottom of the stairs where Sue could plant a garden.

We rented a three-bedroom apartment on the second floor: master for Sue, study/bedroom for me, cubby for Ben. My Mom and

Dad bought us a new washer and dryer set, blessing our reunion.

The dining room table doubled as Ben’s therapy desk, where trainers could sit. Searching the Salvation Army for treasures, I selected a Queen Anne sofa and matching chair recovered in green fleur-delis. I paid from my savings and offered it as a gift to Sue, an open hope chest. She branded the living room with a red fleur-de-lis mismatched chair. Her mark.

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Sit, Quiet Hands, Look at Me

Dan E. Burns University of North Texas Press PDF

Sit, Quiet Hands,

Look at Me

July 1993. I pulled into the parking lot of Walnut Hill Elementary

School, the Total Communication Unit where five-year-elevenmonth-old Ben was housed. His new teacher, Ms. Seevers, had called me. She was waiting for me in the office. I was not looking forward to meeting her.

“Come with me,” said Ms. Seevers. “I want you to see something.”

What trail of destruction had Ben left behind him now? As we walked to the portable building, the cellblock, I apologized for

Ben’s behavior. “He’s off his medication. It’s making him worse.

We’ve tried everything to control him.”

Ms. Seevers swung open the door and there was Ben, standing on the seat of his little desk chair, waving a drumstick, and screeching like a power saw.

“Sit, ” the teacher commanded. Ben sat down. She took the drumstick away from him and gave him a piece of goldfish cracker. He waved his hands in front of his face and hummed like a band saw.

“Quiet hands,” she said. He rested his hands in his lap and stopped humming. “Look at me,” said Ms. Seevers. To my astonishment, he did

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Sue, Me, and Ben

Dan E. Burns University of North Texas Press PDF

Sue, Me, and Ben

I visited Tyler State Park to hike in the Piney Woods with Ben and

Sue. Though we were divorced, Sue and I still enjoyed occasional family outings together. Sue brought camping gear, a tent, a back-

seat full of sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, black trash bags erupting with Tupperware, tin foil, and bean cans. That evening, seated beside the campfire, I played the guitar while Ben foraged for food and drank my Coke. Sue read him some stories, played telephone with him. She was relating to him well, becoming more behavioral in her approach. We had a lovely time.

“Would you like to stay the night?” Sue asked.

No thanks. I had plans.

Driving back to Dallas, I couldn’t shake the image of holding

Ben’s hand while we walked down the park road, his head bent back to see the tops of the towering pines, face awestruck. I should have stayed. What plans, what task could be more important than healing my poor, broken little family?

I decided to spend more time with Sue.

The Christmas holiday of 1995, Sue, Ben, and I went to visit

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