Don’t you just hate it when you have to change your child’s therapist or you move across town into a bigger house and have to change school districts? Imagine moving to a different state every 2-3 years. That’s my world being married to a wonderful man in the military. My 11-year-old son with autism, who just finished 5th grade, has attended 8 different schools from west coast to east coast and in between. He has had at least 10 speech therapists and close to 15 ABA therapists. We know a lot about moving!
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want to complain about my life at all. I enjoy the military lifestyle. My husband loves to serve his country in the military. I don’t have to spring clean my house because when it gets too messy, we just get a new one! We have good health insurance (actually an entitlement not insurance), a military program that is supposed to keep us in areas that have services for my son and my husband’s rank does have its privileges (I get saluted when I enter the gate of the base and get to dress up for balls).
I see moving as an opportunity to make changes. Yes, it’s very hard to leave behind therapists that have worked with my son and know him so well, but going to someone new has benefits too. The new therapist doesn’t know that Koola started talking when he was 9 ½ and may expect more expressive language from him. She doesn’t know that his world revolves around Baby Einstein DVD covers and may present him with other DVDs or books that capture his interest on a more age appropriate level. She doesn’t know about his OCD of touching everything he walks by and doesn’t even realize she is stopping it by coming in the house different ways and loading him with things to carry so his hands are full! Maybe we don’t want therapists in our house every waking hour next time? Maybe it’s time for Mom to be more directly involved with his hands-on therapy? The kids want a dog, oh sorry kids, maybe next house?
But of course, there are the not so pleasant things, too. Koola does not mind changing schools. In fact, I think he secretly enjoys it. See, he is a master manipulator and he knows that those new teachers and aides don’t know what he is capable of doing! Mom has learned his secret and meets with the teachers – even shows videos of RPM sessions! In our last home, he was on the state’s ABA waiver, which meant he had 25 hours a week of ABA. Now he has four. I haven’t even done the Medicaid paperwork yet, it will be a summer project, but I do not expect him to ever reach the top of the list in this state. We rent the house we are in, and while my husband did see the house in person, I only saw it via Skype. What looked to be hardwood floors throughout half the house were really brand new Pergo floors. The off-gassing the first couple months was terrible, but it’s gone now. We can’t find an OT – phone calls are not even returned. And my other younger two neuro-typical kids did not want to leave their friends. I’m so happy for Skype. They adjusted really well to this move and, once again, will be sad to move, maybe as soon as next year.
The military life suits my family and me well; perhaps I am a freak of nature or just a classic ISTJ? Some families in the military have a really hard time with moves. Some moms and dads do not have the support that they need. My support comes from my online network of military and non-military friends. Unfortunately, I gave up on the in-person military support groups early on. TACA gave me my first autism lessons early on, and I am so thankful to have learned from them first instead of some of the other “acceptance” programs I’ve heard of since. Of course I accept my child – I love him dearly! I do not accept that he wants to be in pain and that he doesn’t want friends or to be able to communicate – big difference.
It pains me that parents don’t have much of a choice in doctors or don’t know what other options for healthcare are available. It angers me that vaccinations are REQUIRED for children to attend DoD schools and childcare centers. It makes me want to cry that retirees who have put their life on the line in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan lose their child’s ABA service benefit when they retire. Fortunately, I’m not alone with these feelings and many military spouses are fighting hard to change things.
Next time you are frustrated with a turn of events in your life, please think of the young mom, alone in a new community with a newly diagnosed child with autism and a newborn baby. Her husband is in Afghanistan; she has no family close by and does not know anyone. Please say a prayer for her.
(Yes, I chose a Thinking Moms-like name. Peripety is a literary term for a sudden change in the course of events. I’m still looking for something to recover my son. I’ll let you know when I find it!)
Resources for Military Families: (just a short list)
ACT Today! For Military Families