After interviewing Arthur, reading Justin's charts and observing his behavior, it became clear to me that it was possible that some of the boy's problems were not due to a complete absence of potential. Maybe he didn't speak because he had rarely been spoken to; maybe, unlike a normal child who hears some 3 million words by age 3, he'd been exposed to far fewer. Maybe he didn't stand and walk because no one had coaxed him with her hand out to steady and encourage him. Maybe he didn't know how to eat with utensils because he had never held any in his hands. I decided to approach Justin with the hope that his deficits were indeed due to lack of appropriate stimulation, essentially a lack of opportunity and not lack of capacity.
The nursing staff watched as I walked carefully toward his crib. "He's gonna start throwing," one of them said cynically. I tried to move in slow motion. I wanted him to watch me. I figured that the novelty of my measured pace in contrast to the typical hurried motion in the PICU would catch his attention. I did not look at him. I knew eye contact might be threatening, just as it is for many animals. I pulled the curtains surrounding his crib partially closed so that all he could see was me or the nurses' station. That way, he would be less distracted by the children in the adjacent beds.