Sunday, August 29, 2010


After writing and reading the story about Peter's Sunday excursion around the Forest Park neighborhood, and his eventual return, my heart skipped a beat. Living through Peter's runaway events, his running through airports, and his total LOST experience was part of our life. It was what it was. Although, hours were sent explaining the whys of not losing one's family, our approach became a matter of attempting to be proactive. We put locks and hooks on doors where Peter could not reach...actually, if you walked through my house today, you would see the remnants of leftover locks, hooks, and reversed locks which had been installed in order to prevent a potential disastrous runaway. The family all put on a daily game face, we had a plan, a loosely developed plan of what we would do when we could not find Peter. Because of this extremely frequent occurrence, it appeared as if we were in some drill, a drill that had been conjured up over time by actually seeking out Peter. My voice, serving as the bell or siren, called out to Sara, Mike and the neighborhood children to start the search, as if programed, they stopped their play, whether it was soccer, or swinging on the play set, or maybe a friendly game of playing house in the backyard shed, whatever these children were engaged, they stopped, with no questions asked, and started of in the various directions in search of the lost child, of course, unbeknownst to him. He did not have any conception that he was lost and was in need of being found.

The changes a child with special needs has on one's family is profound. These changes sneak up with really such subtly that one doesn't even noticed. One is only reacting to the effect of the child in order to adjust, survive, or cope. We, as a family, did just that. We, changed our lifestyle, in order to meet the needs of Peter. It was a daily education and the book was written, the rules, the guidelines were posted as we went along. Most of the time, it was a guess. What did not work on the particular day, may work tomorrow, or maybe was never a good idea.

Peter's antics effected all of us. But, when it came to his Speedy Gonzalos moves, we devised our own way of coping. Reflecting, was it the best? Probably not, really, a good fence may have been the answer to solve the daily problem of running. At that time, that was not the answer. A fence in our neighborhood was unheard of that time, now, everyone has fences. A fence at that time was also cost prohibitive.

I know we tried the best we could. I know God gave us patience, good neighbors, and a large dose of overseeing...of course, He always was aware of Peter's wear abouts! I think of Peter, who on the major LOST day, when we found him acted as if he was being picked up by strangers, and Peter now, who hugs and appreciates his family. Peter, who now can go on trips and stays with his group. Who during his growing years learned to stay closer, that family is a "good thing".

Could someone have given us a book on how to raise this child...maybe? I can now look back and say I would not change a thing, there is a reason how this developed and formed. In the midst of the "battle", the growing, sure there were painful days and many tears, but I never lost Peter...not permanently, although, reading and reflecting I do believe...that was nothing short of a miracle!!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I was right. When asking Peter about his trip, those three words which Peter has turned into a one syllable word flowed quickly from Peter's month. "Idunknow" . Peter,who did you room with? Idunknow" Really, Idunknow was the response for any question asked. But, as I was told, he had a great time! And, Mr. I was afraid of boats, took a historic boat tour, and did just fine. And, Peter, who when we took him to a movie theater would either bolt within the first few minutes of the movie or refuse to come in and take a seat, sat quietly and enjoyed the Broadway play!! As I was told...he was so good!

Funny, when I picked him up for church this morning, it was as if he had grown up a bit since last week when I had seen him. This week, he walked slowly into church, okay, so he still took way more snacks than requested, but than he placed all his items on the table and proceeded to find one our of neighbors, one he has not seen in a very long time, and go shake his hand and ask him how he was doing today! Excuse me, but is this the same Peter that last week was running into the place?

He stood, he listened, he was just so calm. I cannot help but think that trip was not only enjoyable, but a great learning experience. One that he got alot of bang for his buck! Fun and learning. A experience that at one time in his tiny life I would never have imagined! Now...if he would only stay at his workstation until the end of the would be good!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Working Man

Recently, I attended Peter's annual job review at the curative workshop where he goes daily. A workshop where companies have individuals with special needs fill orders for them. I know at this particular workshop, Johnson Wax has been a very good sponsor. I must admit, I was a tad apprehensive as last year his review did not go so well. He was having a hard time staying on task, staying in the lines, and was really attracted to the time clock, so much that he would leave his piecework job and go punch everyone's cards, of course, that would be in the middle of the day! So last year at this time, Peter was managing to push people's patience buttons to the max, that would be people who already have an extra dose of love and patience. At that time, I went into overdrive and tried to come up with ways to help Peter. I walked him between the yellow lines and made him repeat "Stay within the lines, the lines are your friends". We discussed the purpose of time cards and how important it was to complete his job. I know there was bribery involved and I hoped and prayed he would eventually figure out his new role in life.

This year, I was told, he is still working on staying friends with the lines. But, after listening to his review, I was beaming. Over the past year, he has managed to stay on task and build triggers and put caps on triggers, all fairly demanding for someone who struggles with fine motor movement. Triggers, you see, are those things at the top of a spray bottle, that allows us, the customer to spray the windows, the toilets, whatever. This year, he increased his productivity thirty percent, and made six hundred dollars for the year, enough to pay for a special trip to Chicago. And, did I mention that they removed the time clock, so he lost the need to go and punch everyone's time card. Now that was a blessing! I am sure one of his autistic behaviors was drawing him to that clock, and that need to punch.

Remember those doors and windows I talked about earlier, well, if you asked me, this is a window of opportunity for Peter. A chance for him to move into the adult working world and feel good about himself. An opportunity to be independent, have somewhere to go everyday and spend time with others like him and than come home at the end of the day and there is a working man!

Still Beaming...

Yes, Peter has made me proud because he is trying very hard to do better at his job. But, today, again, I am just so excited! Today, Peter is leaving on his trip that he paid for with his own money from his job at the curative workshop. After putting all those triggers together, boxing Pledge, and trying very hard to stay within the yellow lines at work, Peter is going on vacation. Nope! Not with me. He, is going with his friends on a special bus to downtown Chicago and spending three days in the city. Peter will be rooming with Wilson, his buddy from his house and from his work and supervised by one of the managers, Ann. He gets to go sightseeing to Navy Pier, to the Aquarium and to a Broadway play. Now how cool is that!

I love taking Peter on vacation, but there is something very special about Peter doing his own thing. When he was growing up, I never knew what would take place after Peter finished high school. And like I said, I did not spend time worrying over fretting over that concern, but, I really never knew. People would asked...and I think I just smiled. I had no answer. I was going one day at a time, so there is no future planning in one day at a time. Sure, I conjured up thoughts and wheres, but that is about as far as it went. Could I have imagined this? Not this good! Could I have ever imagined that Peter would be living in a phenomenal group home with his friends from high school, having a job, a really nice job, happy, still growing, and also, so close to my house. I know in my wishful thinking, that wistful dream was never this good.

And now today, he leaves to go on a trip, not with me, with his friends to a big city. I am just so excited for him! I cannot wait until he can tell me all about it!! Okay, I must get real here. I know when I ask him what he did he will say "Idunnoknow". But, I know that in the "dunnoknow" he had a marvelous time! I can see the smile now! Way to go Peter, way to defy all odds and grow up and be an adult. Oh yes, and thanks for keeping the child in you. so the rest of your family can still play.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

One Sunday Afternoon

I still remember the day, it was a bright sunny Sunday afternoon when we went to visit the local relatives. We were picnicking, talking when my brother-in-law started giving line dancing lessons on the backyard patio. Always wanting to learn this type of dance, I joined in the fun. Peter, at the young age of maybe four or five, was entertaining himself by running out the back door circling the ranch style house to open the front door, run through the kitchen and again run out the back door. This form of entertainment was keeping Peter well occupied as the afternoon progressed, and I believing he was safe began to learn the fine art of line dancing. We danced and Peter circled through about every 30 - 45 seconds, slamming the doors and have big time fun as far as he was concerned.
Laughing and dancing away, I noticed that I had not seen Peter circle in the last few minutes, so I broke away to do a check, thinking he was most likely in a bathroom, had found another door, or joined the rest of the children in the basement. Looking in the bathrooms, closets, and any orifice that had a door, I could not find Peter, so I called on the kids and cousins to help me look and asked the dancers if they had seen Peter, Shortly, all twenty of us were searching the house again, and slowly spreading into the neighborhood. No Peter could be found. Where could he have gone?
Concern raising, we broke up into groups, some in cars, some on bikes, some walking, all of us going in different directions. We looked in yards, and at the nearby school with the wide array of playground equipment, we searched and searched. When we stopped and asked the local neighbors, some out washing their cars, others doing yard work, they also joined in search, giving up the their Sunday activities. We walked, we circled, we called, we checked any swimming pools, and the longer we could not find Peter, the more my heart was sinking. Could this be the time we would not find him, or would he be hurt when we did, did someone take him?
I still remember hearing sirens in a distance and thinking that this is where we would find Peter. Thinking he had escaped to a busy road several blocks away, I maintained a calm demeanor, quietly praying, and continuing the search. By this time, the police were involved, three or four cars, so as we were walking we would see them circling.
It seemed like an eternity, and it was well over an hour, maybe two when we got the word from the police department. The police had enlisted the help of young boys on bikes and when these boys noticed a little boy swinging away on a swing set located in a backyard, they went up to the door and asked the owner if they knew him. Nope, not their child, so they called the police.
Finding Peter, he was just sitting and swinging. Was he all excited to see..not really...he was swinging. Was he afraid? No, he showed no sign on any anxiety, no comprehension that he has caused any commotion. He was just swinging. Did he understand that by now about forty people were now involved in the search and as every second passed, the enormity of the situation was weighing heavily on our hearts. How he walked blocks and blocks away without being seen, how he did not get hit by a car on his way, why he stopped where he did...nothing short of a miracle. And there he sat, swinging, just swinging, almost bothered that we had stopped the motion and he had to come with us.
This was just one more day in the life of Peter Labanowsky. It was as if he walked with this invisible wall around him, a wall that protected him, this wall seemed to encompass Peter in many experiences, this one a bit more harrowing than the others.
We went home, Peter as if nothing was array. We counting our blessings and thinking how we can never, and I mean never leave him out of our site! Thinking maybe we should be the first in the neighborhood to put up that forbidden fence, everyone hugging Peter, and he wondering "what is the big deal?"