By Wendy Frye
We were well into our parenting years the first time we took a real break from our "unique" routine. Our way of life, with autism in the home....well, lets just say it was a rarity to move in a group LET alone consider just WHAT it would take to achieve one of America's finest family pastimes - taking a vacation.
Our eldest son, diagnosed on the autism spectrum at the age of 3 1/2 years old, was making measurable progress. He found his voice in his 8th year - and was being released from physical and occupational therapies at school. Now, I don't think I need to detail the herculean efforts poured into this young man to get to this place - or feel bad about the $90,000 outlay. We took personal debt (aka credit cards) to a whole different level. But Man! Oh! Man! we had finally made it to a positive, measurable milestone. What a perfect time to pause, take a honeymoon from all the therapies per se, and quickly celebrate a little bit of progress.
It was our last purchase made on the last line of credit we had available - a trip for four to Disneyland. And was it ever worth every single penny PLUS interest, fees and the stamps to mail in payments! Well before Mickey Mouse got pissed and quit handing out VIP passes to families who could use the extra time and assistance, we were able to secure that very golden ticket to fast-tracking the park attractions. While I had to physically force my eldest son to stay with me on the first ride (yep, that was me manhandling my son - don't judge unless you live the life, friend) soon after that, he was hooked. We finished 16 attractions that first day, going on to have a delightful dinner in the French Quarter of the park and ultimately enjoying the best vacation of our lives.
James, who turned 20 this January, went on to complete his education. And now, as with all things Autism, we've had to change up our family plans to assist him in his chosen career, as an artist. We are now knee deep in Special Needs Trusts, Business Plans, Vocational Rehab, Employment Support, Job Studies, and on and on.....
(Heavy sigh here)
If there was one thing I regret out loud, it's not remembering to look back and reflect more often. In the relentless pursuit of recovery, the sheer angst of being a parent helpless to ever understand what "normal" family life is, thats when and where we missed it. We simply missed stopping to turn back to GAZE at the amazing accomplishments of a young man who was working harder than anyone to plant his flag. So, take pictures, lots and LOTS of pictures! Stop, pause and reflect every once in awhile, and go ahead, do it! Take a jump off the listing carousel we know as life, and give the sword a pull from the stone ~ you'll never pry it loose unless you try.
"The soul never thinks without a picture." ~Aristotle
Visit James Frye's website at JamesFryeArtist.com.