Just as he turned eight, a boy I will call Sam became totally paralyzed and spent three months on a respirator in a coma. The rest of the year he spent in a children’s rehabilitation hospital. He emerged with minor brain damage, learning disabilities, complex emotional problems and severe behavioral problems.
Under the strain of trying to cope with Sam, the family began to disintegrate. His mother suffered a psychotic break and was briefly hospitalized. At first when she returned home she was very depressed. Because neither the public school system nor his family could manage him, when he was 12 Sam was placed in the first of a series of residential schools that combined academics with programs of behavior modification.