Adapting to the Possibilities of Life
by Donald Rosenstein, MD
April 27, 2008
I believe in adaptation — that is, the same stimulus does not invariably elicit the same response over time.
The first time I saw my son flap his arms, I nearly threw up.
My son Koby was 2 at the time, and he and my wife and I were at an evening luau in Hawaii. Dancers emerged from the dark twirling torches to loud, rhythmic drumbeats. I thought it was exciting and so did Koby. He began to flap his arms — slowly, at first, and then with an intensity that mirrored the movement of the dancers.
In an instant, I was overwhelmed. I knew just enough about arm-flapping to know that it was characteristic of autism. I was confused, panicked and strangely preoccupied with the fear that I would never play tennis with my son as I had with my father.
I believe that “reframing a problem” can help to overcome it. But adaptation is not the same as becoming tolerant of or inured to something. Adaptation allows for creative possibilities.
before he adapted to his son’s illness, he wouldn’t always know how to respond when his very sick patients would tell him, I just don’t know what to do. Now his answer is, you do the best you can.