So it is now January 1st, 2012, and it’s my day of reflecting on last year, and pondering my hopes for the new year. I reflect on the how I can make each year better, and especially how I can make things better for Ryan.
In 2010 I’d made a decision to move Ryan to Texas, so he could see his Father more often (he had gone many months without seeing him), but as 2011 began, it became apparent it was going to be a very difficult, and harsh year. Do to tough circumstances we had to move once again (our 3rd time in a year), and since I had nowhere else to go, I had to move Ryan and I into the projects (in the ghetto) for a temporary move until my tax refund came in. We moved into a tiny apartment, in a small town in Central Florida. We stuck out like sore thumbs, and Ryan disliked the apartment immediately, because it was very small and we had to sleep on a couch together. I told him it was only for a short time, and tried to help him adjust.
I took him outside every morning after breakfast, so he could ride his big wheel. It got the attention of a couple of little boys that were neighbors, and they started coming outside in the mornings too. Their Mom’s quickly realized I was keeping an eye on all of them, and soon they started talking to me. I made friends with them and their children, and we spent everyday watching them play, walking them to the park, and answering lots of questions about me, and Ryan. They were curious about Ryan (he was so different from them), and then one of the older brothers finally asked me if Ryan was “touched”. I knew this old fashioned term, so I gently explained what autism was, and that Ryan was younger in his mind than his real age. He understood that, and from that moment on, every little boy that Ryan played with, banded around him and watched out for him.Ryan had a daily play group for the very first time, and they had his back.
What originally was supposed to be 2 months, stretched out to 6 months. It was a very frustrating time, and yet we both learned many new and important lessons. I learned what poor people really go through, everyday, and how they make do with what little they have. I learned how to make friends with anybody, under extreme conditions. I cared about them and that’s what mattered. They made my life bearable. They shared, stretching what they had, and made me laugh on my toughest days. I think I taught them a few things too…like, there are people you can trust even when your culture says you can’t. Plus, I gave cooking lessons to the teenagers, supervised the younger ones, and babysat when I was needed.
Ryan learned to play with more than one child at a time. He learned how to share, and take turns, and also, most importantly, that he could have fun with other kids. I certainly would never recommend this approach to teaching an Autistic child the many social lessons he learned in those six months, but it changed him faster than any other social therapy he’d ever had..We had a routine and a life there, which taught Ryan, that even in the worst conditions, you can rely on life being pretty normal if you make it that way. He made a lot of progress in spite of the challenges we faced those first 6 months of the year.
I started preparing him for our move to Texas, and even though he was excited about getting a nicer place, he was sad to say goodbye to his friends, and I was too. I spent weeks, talking about Texas, our new home, and our new plans. Finally it was time to leave. It was a very emotional morning when we left, with lots of hugging and tears, and thank yous to the many neighbors that had become friends. It was one of the toughest times of my life, but I will never forget the warm people that reached out to us while we were there!
The trip to Texas was long, but exciting. We saw our first Texas Longhorns, enjoyed sweeping wide vistas with beautiful ranches, and lots of wide open spaces. We moved to a city with the largest Army base in the US, and had to learn our way around, but once Ryan and I got unpacked into our new home, we could relax and let our guards down for the first time in 6 months. It felt so good! We have spent the second half of 2011 adjusting to a new school, new neighbors, and being far away from our whole family. That has been hard. Ryan misses his sisters, but he never talks about moving back to Florida to live, only going back to visit and swim. Lol.
We made it through 2011, and I was able to make things better for Ryan, and he did make progress, in spite of one of the greatest trials of my life. This year, 2012, will be one of stability. We will have the same home, school, and quiet life we yearned for last year. We will enjoy being in one spot, and Ryan will make progress, grow, and thrive! We love our new home and feel very comfortable already. Thank you to our family and friends we left behind, and thank you Texas for what lies ahead of us!