Home Sweet Autismland (#327)

I should say, it’s a finished basement.

I’m referring to the basement of my in-laws’ house that we are moving into, as their town has the kind of ABA-autism program that Charlie flourishes in and that he will be in come June. My father-in-law needs to have a live-in nurse; she sleeps in what was one of my sister-in-law’s bedrooms. I am hoping that we can help out, too.
It is not the first time that Jim and I have moved for Charlie–that was May 2001, when we first came back from St. Louis, Missouri, to New Jersey, in search of the best education for Charlie. Jim had rented a condo (behind a high school football field, just off a busy state road) in central Jersey but we first drove the green stationwagon, loaded down with some clothes and lots of toys and books and boxes of Jim’s files for his book, from the Gateway Arch to my in-laws’ house. We didn’t bother to unload the car except for our suitcases and spent a few nights on my in-laws’ beat-up sofa bed.

That sofabed is still in the basement (and even more beat-up; I could sleep on the stairs if I had to, but Jim and Charlie would prefer a decent bed), as are the photographs of Jim’s grandfather on the Wood-Ridge baseball team, and of Jim’s grandmother, Nonie, and a very 1960’s family portrait of Jim’s parents, his sisters, and him (with brown hair?); various knicknacks and plastic flowers; my father-in-law’s computer (he had AOL via dial-up and asked me two weeks ago about DSL……).

It’s going to be a big change. I love our house and the leafy, leave-it-to-Beaver street it is on. I remember thinking about how we’d have thirty-something years plus in it when we bought the house.

But it is a house, and I am sure another family will be glad to watch the sunlight coming in through the dining room windows on the wood floors, and enjoy the lovely trees that drop a zillion pinecones we have to pick up. I have to think, someone else will carry in a dining room table and actually entertain guests at it, rather than turn it into a cluttered “desk” of papers (verbal behaviors files, Lovaas files, school files, medical files, IEP files, my Classics research cast here and there, bills to be paid, my journal, dust and a digital camera).

I once wrote about us as Autismland refugees, wayfarers, wanderers, in a strange new world of difference.

And, from the parental perspective, raising an autistic child can be very different from what you might have imagined, as the mothers in the much, much-blogged about Autism Every Day video describe.

But different does not mean bad, or “devastating,” or “tragic,” or unwanted, in my book, at least. Different just means different. Unexpected.

Like moving into the basement rooms of your in-laws’ split level house.

Like having to take your child out of his school as we did in November.

Like raising an autistic child.
Like raising a child.

Like the hours I had to help Charlie fill this afternoon because his speech therapist had to help her grandmother (getting out of the hospital) and because we are no longer doing verbal behavior therapy. We went for a walk to the playground. We went to a nearby store for random items; we went to the mall, where he got his treat of escalator rides and I got mine of breezing through several stores, really fast: “All done!” said Charlie; “Mom just wants to take a fast look”; frown and sigh. (And yes, we checked out the iPods.) I got him a burger and fries: “We’ll eat it at home!” “Home. Go home,” said Charlie.

That took us over an hour due to rush hour traffic and a downed tree from a sudden rainshower. Charlie sat, big-eyed and worried, as his dinner cooled in the front seat.

He wolfed down every bite, fries, burger, pickles, lettuce, once we finally got home.

Home in Autismland is wherever we three are together and Charlie–the center of our universe–is well, and happy, and smiling as he did watching videos of himself on his bike tonight.

It is true, Jim and I have travelled far not only for Charlie’s sake, but also because of Charlie. To help Charlie, we have had to change much about ourselves; had to give up jobs, cancelled opportunities, altered our life-plans. And so has Autismland become our home.

And home is where the heart is.

7 Responses to “Home Sweet Autismland (#327)”
  1. mom-nos says:

    Yes. And there’s no place like home.

    Good luck with the move. I look forward to reading the next chapter of your lives.

  2. kyra says:

    oh my, kristina! what a big change. we are talking about moving in the fall and i’ve been thinking of the best way to help fluffy with the transition. i think it’s wonderful that you found a great program for charlie and that you have a familiar place to be all together. that’s your heart, isn’t it? the three of you together. i relate. xx

  3. Julia says:

    I am so glad to hear you’ve found a good program for Charlie!

  4. Tera says:

    Good luck with the move!

    Here’s hoping Charlie learns a lot at (and enjoys!) his new school

  5. Lisa says:

    My great grandmother and great grandfather left a little village in Romania at the start of the 20th century for the sake of their children and their future. This is another kind of emmigration–difficult, yes, filled with fear of the unknown, loss of the expected, the comfortable. But it is what we parents do for our children. It is what parents have done for their children in every generation.

    I wish you an easy move and may Charlie’s transition be smooth.

    I think you are no less brave than our ancestors who contemplated a move across distances they could not imagine and into a country where they did not speak the language.

    Thinking of you all.


  6. My mother also moved into her parents’ basement for a couple of years to get me into a good public school when I was about Charlie’s age. It must have been hard for her because the stress from the move made me act up for a while, but it definitely helped me to get better adjusted in school and in life generally.

    I wish more parents these days were as responsible as you, rather than just having pity parties for themselves like the Autism Speaks crowd.

  7. Anna says:

    I am from Scotland mother of twin boys Christopher and Shaun both have severe autism. I won a fellowship to travel to the states and look at new ideas involving people adults affected by autism, mainly in the workplace. Can anyone help?? do you know of something that is really working in the states. I intend to go to see the Higashi school in Boston looking for other place will be in the States for two weeks many many thanks Anna

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