When Nigel was diagnosed with autism in 1997, his father and I immediately enrolled him in an ABA-based program that we were fortunate enough to have access to all those years ago. We hadn’t even heard of ABA. But we were steered in that direction by the therapists, teachers, and autism consultants who had identified him, and we went with it. We were surprised to learn of the intensive nature of the program – thirty hours a week with two weekly home visits. At that time we were living at poverty level, so the state paid the staggering costs of the therapy our nonverbal son so desperately needed, and we were grateful.
But had we been faced with footing the bill ourselves, we would have moved heaven and earth to do so. As it was, I went back to work shortly after the diagnosis. My then-husband worked evenings and weekends while I worked weekdays. Even with our nearly opposite work schedules, we still had some crossover time when we both needed to be at work. Nigel could not be put in daycare due to the severity of his autism at the time. We tried a few places and were turned down. There was also Aidan, who was eighteen months old then. My father had recently retired and offered to babysit a few afternoons a week to fill in the gaps, and I am forever grateful for that. My boss allowed me to leave work early when needed, and I am equally grateful to her. We made a lot of sacrifices and relied on the assistance and understanding of those close to us to get through those early years.
At some point, we noticed with dread that Aidan had strong sensory issues and a delay in language development and enrolled him in a therapy program similar to Nigel’s, minus the ABA component. Having two special-needs children with all of their therapies, doctor appointments, teacher and specialist meetings, and juggling work and, ultimately, single parenting was painful, especially when their father moved 700 miles away. But I did what I had to. And I would do it all again. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my boys.
And I still do. When Nigel was terribly bullied at his middle school two years ago and the administration would not, as I requested, talk to the student body about developmental disabilities, I pulled him out and made sacrifices to be able to homeschool him. When Aidan developed an unknown health issue last year, we racked up innumerable hours scheduling and attending all of the various medical tests he endured and then the surgery, once his condition was identified. But that’s what you do. You do whatever your kids need. And it has become painfully obvious that my boys, now teens, need two things: more time with their father and specialized instruction for Nigel.
Nothing I wouldn’t do.
So I take a deep breath as I write this, as I commit the concept to print: We are moving to Los Angeles. Not next week or next month, but soon. In mid-June, for the past eight years, the boys have gone to visit their father for several weeks. This June, they’ll move. I’m putting my house on the market in about three weeks, and I will join them in L.A. as soon as it sells.
It’s a huge change for all of us, but one that I believe will yield many positive results. Nigel will attend a specialized school for autistic students that will target his lack of executive function. And with his recent announcement of wanting to go to film school for college, we’ll be in the right area for that to happen down the road. Aidan, who has had the hardest time living far from his father, will be near him year-round. And I plan to finally find a job that fits a little better with my English degree, as well as spend time with other family members whom I have missed for many years (I was born in L.A. and moved to Oregon for college).
But I can’t begin to describe how much I’ll miss beautiful Oregon and our family members and friends who live here. I have no doubts that this move is the right thing to do, and that this is the right time, but I have spent half of my life in Oregon, and there is much to be missed. It’s not called “God’s Country” for nothing! Then again, the other half of my life has been spent in the “City of Angels,” and, truth be told, my feelings aren’t too mixed about returning to it. But for now, I’ve got a yard to spruce up and lots of paperwork to fill out.