I heard it distinctly, and I think he did too, the moment when my heart cracked open. On days when I do consultations with agencies, I am envariably exhausted when done. Everything is so intense.
In this case a young boy came in. I know he'd consider himself a man but if you are under twenty - to me you are still not quite 'growed up'. He seemed so small, so little, he took his seat knowing what was going to happen. That the people in the room were going to ask questions, listen to answers, that we were going to poke and prod through his mind. I watched him ready himself. He seemed to me, from my vantage point of nearly 60 years, to be a little boy who had a big, big problem.
We do what we do. We do exactly as he thought we would. Underneath his piercings, underneath his teen swagger, there unquestionably lives a frightened little boy. He knows what he's done is wrong, really wrong. He knows he is in big trouble. He never wants to be 'here' again in his life, never wants to hurts someone, never wants to have to talk about what his hands did. Never again. But it is the assessment dance, we lead, he follows, we ask, he answers, we show pictures, he points to the right one.
At one point he is asked the question; "If you had an uncomfortable feeling, who would you talk to?"
He looked at us seriously, as he had throughout, he answered honestly, "No one. I have no one."
There was such sadness in his eyes. He was alone in the world. True, he had care providers, he had family, all who cared - but none who'd listen. Not after what he'd done. Not after the trouble he caused. Now he was simply alone in the world.
Soon after this answer we called a close to the meeting. We had more to ask, but he had little else to give. He had been honest, honesty takes energy, and such he was exhausted. He got up nad shook our hands, thanked us for wanting to help him. And, he was gone.
We, the team, talked briefly after he left. "Did you hear ..." I was about to ask. After 3 hours of questioning, 3 hours of answers to difficult questions, my co-workers both said, "He's alone."
Loneliness and isolation are so often epidemic in the lives of people with disabilities. I wonder how many mistakes, missteps, and misbehaviours are made to simply feel less alone. I wonder what that desperation does.
"How did we get here with him? How do we bring a young person through a supported and planned and programmed life, and find him here alone? How can we teach him so much and give him so little? What is our responsiblity in crafting loneliness and fostering isolation? We must be targetting it, it's so often the end result of years of programming and support.
I'm beginning to think that an assessment needs to be done. Questions asked. Tests completed. On a system who seems to keep churning out young men, young women, who come through integration without any rubbing off. Who come through inclusion without it ever taking hold. Who come through a crowded life and end up, at 17 alone.
His crime was caught.
Ours gets a pass.