We moved from Montgomery, Alabama to Satellite Beach, Florida in the summer of 2014. I haven’t posted since then. We enjoyed the beach style living for three years. My quiet walks along the beach, breathing in the ocean air and picking seashells, are especially memorable. During this long pause of no writing I felt that I was done processing, reflecting, and healing from the ups and downs of living with special needs. I was done, I thought, or at least for a while. It was time to move forward, accept things as they were, and let life settle. I was forty-five years old, and it was time to take care of myself a little bit more.
In addition to the piano playing which I always continued, I began jewelry design and joined my mother in acrylic painting classes. These hands-on activities provided me with a much needed creative and therapeutic outlet. In hindsight, I should have also continued writing. It would have been a huge help and comfort to me in dealing with the challenges that were heading our way. It could have continued to be one of my creative outlets. I suppose I was craving some means of expression without having to put thoughts into words.
In July 2015, after our first year beach-side, Alex deployed for half a year; not including the obligatory month of pre-deployment training. This was his second deployment to date. Five weeks into this deployment, we had to move out of the house for three weeks due to mold growing in the air conditioning ducts. We had our belongings moved into storage, and a complete move back. I had to put everything back mostly on my own upon our return; “a move within a move.” As you can probably imagine, I was less than thrilled.
To make matters worse, during those three weeks of not living at home, Max broke his arm at the playground. I felt as if God kept piling on the challenges for me. The deployment itself was a big enough challenge to get through with a special needs child and twins. Fortunately, my in laws came to help during that chaotic period. At that point my spirit was broken. I went to see a counselor at the base who specializes in deployment and reintegration issues. I saw him for the rest of the deployment and he was very helpful.
My parents came later that fall. That daily help, especially with driving Jake, was priceless. My “snowbird” parents came for six months a year and stayed in a townhouse near us. When the three years were over, it felt like an end of era. I knew that I would greatly miss not having them near by and not be able to enjoy their company anymore.
Jake had excellent autism services at The Scott Center for Autism Treatment, so I was committed to making the daily drive. I either had a two hour round trip, or an hour long trip if I stayed there for the three hours. It was not ideal. After his three hours there, I took him three days a week to Achieve therapy for speech and occupational therapy. This was great for him as he received both speech and OT simultaneously. This enabled him to move around the room for breaks and not be stuck at a desk after a long day. By the third year, I was exhausted from the daily drive to and from therapies. I was ready to get back to in home therapies, even if it was just at our next location.
Jake had made significant progress, most noticeably during the third year. I was heavily involved in his final month of therapy. I was getting trained in learning to reinforce all the skills that he’d mastered, so that we could have a smooth transition to our next location. I felt very confident that I could help him through the move.
We lived in the south for our first ten years of military life. We moved in late July 2017 to Virginia and I was excited to experience the beauty of four seasons again. Since the school year started much later than in Florida, Jake was out of school during the summer longer than he’d previously been. At our new location, Jake was out of school and therapies for an additional five long weeks. This was a tough period due to the inevitable regression he experiences every time we move. While I knew that this regression was unavoidable, watching him regress with dwindling speech and a return to some old behaviors, such as vocal stims (making sounds is a stimulatory act for some autistic people) and mostly pointing to things, was especially difficult to observe.
We came to Virginia with Jake in May to house hunt and set up therapies. We thought that seeing the new place would ease Jake’s transition. We were then told that by the time of our arrival Jake would be able to start therapy right away. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Due to a shortage of therapists, we were still on waiting lists well into the start of the school year. This extra long period without therapies exacerbated Jake’s regression. It was a very isolating period which took a heavy toll on me emotionally. The way I got through it was with Alex and my parents' support, and telling myself that this is only temporary.
When school finally started Jake began to normalize. He had missed his predictable daily structure. Soon after, we started with twice a week speech therapy, and once a week occupational therapy. ABA (autism therapy) started a little while later, but we are still now only at twice a week – when he should be receiving five days a week. Over the past few weeks, Jake started doing an ABA social skills group on Saturdays. It’s been a slow start since our arrival, and we are not at maximum hours yet. This is pretty disappointing, as we’d heard such good things about therapies in the D.C. region. There really isn’t anything that we could do, except for rolling with it.
Five and a half months in, and we have settled into our new home and are into a family groove. The twins are busy with soccer and school. Alex started his job straight away and got into a routine quickly. I don’t have to pick up Jake mid day to take him to ABA therapy anymore, as I had to in Florida. Having the in home therapies has been so nice. It provides me with more downtime and I’m able to get a lot done, practice my piano several hours a day, and give piano lessons.
Over the last couple of weeks a distant yet familiar urge hit me. I recognized that I need to start writing again. It was important that I figure out why I abstained from writing for so long in order to start writing again. This took some soul searching, but I eventually got there. The life events that I shared above, took up my energy and my focus. Now that we are settled and I have more time to myself, I am able to write again. My head is much clearer and I can catch my breath again. So here’s to a happy and healthy new year 2018 - A year I hope to bring continued clarity, personal fulfillment, and peace to us all.