The weeks leading up to October 24, 2009 were very difficult ones. Corbin had been what we termed “spinning” – meaning that he had very high energy, was difficult to engage in anything meaningful, was having trouble at school and just seemed insatiable in so many ways. Add to that his stutter and difficulty trying to “get his words out” they were all impacting heavily on his day to day life.
On Tuesday October 7th, 2009 my husband and I were notified by Corbin’s school that he had run from school property and was making statements about wanting to harm himself. Due to Corbin’s complex needs he can be very impulsive and reactive, yet he had never left school property before. The school staff were amazing and did what they could to bring him back safely. He grew more agitated and unpredictable and it became clear to all those involved that his personal safety was at great risk as he began to dart back and forth across the road, oblivious to the dangers. A call was made to the police.
When I arrived at the school my heart sank when I saw the two police cruisers outside of the school. Due to the “invisibility” of our sons disabilities people can perceive these meltdowns as him being rude or willfully misbehaving because they do not understand that he has developmental and mental health disorders. I honestly had no idea what to expect from our first encounter with the police but I was quickly reassured by the calm and friendly officers. They had taken charge but were obviously genuinely concerned for our son. They were patient and helpful while we worked to calm our son and bring the matter to a close. Following that incident and under his doctor’s care we increased his meds – this seemed to be helping with bolting behaviour and aggression but his anxiety was still really high plus it made him VERY hungry. We already had food issues before (hoarding, sneaking, eating things he shouldn’t) and it was now escalating. He shared in a therapy session that he was waking up several times in the night hungry and that he was worried he was going to get fat and explode. His general anxiety/OCD seemed off the chart. One weekend he went to a Nature centre with his Respite worker that we frequented as a family. I got a call after he was gone for about 30 minutes – he was convinced they were being followed and he had worked himself into a state.
All of this lead up to October 24, 2009 which was an important day because my husband and I planned to take Corbin to his very first Vinyl Café with Stuart McLean at the Chrysler Theatre in Windsor Ontario. Adam and I had gone for a number of years and I had introduced the CD’s to Corbin as a way of calming down. Given the events of the past weeks I contemplated whether to give the tickets away. Usually excellent in a theatre I wasn’t sure if at this time in his life he could sit still for a couple of hours. I had decided to take a chance and go when my husband found out he had a work engagement he had to be at and couldn’t attend with us. I invited my mother to come along with us but I was still having my doubts as we drove to the theatre.
On our way there Corbin talked incessantly about being picked to go up on stage and help Stuart. We had made the mistake of telling Corbin of this ritual. Nothing could convince him that he might not get picked. Trying to make light of the situation I said “well you can tell him you fall asleep listening to him every night”.
Once at the theatre I felt my throat catch when I realized our seats were in the middle of a very long row. I madly tried to think of what to do – should I ask someone near the aisle if they would switch with us? Was I over reacting? I just couldn’t help but feel a little panic at the idea of Corbin having a meltdown and having to crawl over dozens of people to get out. I gave my head a shake and took a deep breath and led Corbin and my mom to our assigned seats.
The show was going well and Corbin was enjoying himself when the music changed and the lights came up. Without thinking I nudged Corbin and said “now” and he leapt out of his seat reaching his arm high into the air. I mentally beat myself up – why did I do that? I watched Stuart as he explained what would happen next and then followed his finger as it pointed right at my son. Corbin practically leapt over people to get to the stage.
I remember sitting in my seat, suddenly feeling trapped and claustrophobic. I wanted to run after him and bring him back to his seat. I wanted to somehow give Stuart a heads up that he has a disability and might not act or say the things he wanted him to say. I cringed at the idea of what might come out of Corbin’s mouth. Stuart asked him his name and he answered and then he grabbed the mic and said “I fall asleep to you every night” to which the audience and Stuart laughed. Corbin was beaming as Stuart had him hold up each item that he was going to give away. When he was done I felt myself finally starting to breathe again. When he came back to his seat he was like a live wire but managed to watch the rest of the show.
Me, I sat there and wept silently at the gift that Stuart had given to me and to Corbin. For a few moments he was a kid without a care in the world showing off in front of hundreds of people. In those moments he had no disability, he wasn’t different, he wasn’t less than. He was Corbin – the boy who could do anything.