It’s been approximately one and a half year since our world turned upside down – since we learned that our boys are autistic. It sure has been a roller coaster ride. Emotionally, we’ve delved into the darkest corners of the human mind and then slowly reemerged back up into the sunshine. We still go up and down but the roller coaster is slowly changing from one of those crazy roller coasters where people feel dizzy just looking at them to something a bit more innocent, a bit more manageable. And it seems as if the general direction is upwards of late.
Today is a universal Mother’s Day, a day where people are reminded of the unselfish and often unappreciated deeds of their mothers. Many celebrate the day by spending it with their mother, showing their appreciation and love for the woman who has been caring for them since the day they were born. In that respect time is of no importance. A mother’s instinct to love and care for her children has nothing to do with age. The job of being a mother is for life.
It has been almost a month since I told you that I was hopeful. That was the first time in a long time that I had felt that way and it was an exhilarating sensation. All that excitement came from the mere possibility that V might get a spot in his big brother’s basis-gruppe, a special type of institution here in Denmark, consisting of a small group of 6 children, all diagnosed with autism that is supported by 3 or 4 preschool teachers. Although there was no guarantee for the spot at the time, I felt really optimistic that we would get it – so optimistic in fact, that I became a little afraid that I might be jinxing it!
Great news! We have officially been offered (and accepted) a spot for both boys in a kindergarten in Iceland that has excellent reputation for doing an outstanding job with autistic kids. And apparently, it is not just the reputation that is good since my husband, who is currently in Iceland, visited the kindergarten today and was tremendously impressed. Moreover, we have secured a place to live as well… in walking distance from the kindergarten. I am almost giddy with joy and relief!
For the first time in a long time, I actually feel hopeful. And here is why…
Last week, our suspicion that V has autism, was confirmed. During that meeting, we reminded them that we were planning on moving to Iceland in a few months. They became a bit puzzled as if they had forgotten about that fact and one of them suggested that maybe the big coordination meeting, that was supposed to be held in about three weeks, should be canceled instead of wasting so many resources for such a short period of time. Fortunately, we had been prepared for the news of V being autistic because if we would have been in shock I am not sure we would have responded the way we did. Instead of numbly giving in and agreeing to the suggestion, both of us strongly objected the idea. We were not ready to wait a moment longer for our son to get sufficient help!
As my post Moving Back to Iceland states, we are returning to the land of ice and fire after two eventful years in Copenhagen, Denmark. As such, we found it fitting that I made a trip to Iceland to look at preschools and schools in search for the best services for our boys. So, I’ve been in Iceland the past few days (the reason why it has been oh so quiet in here) scanning the system. The goal was to find a neighborhood that has a good preschool AND elementary school that BOTH offer excellent services for autistic children. But the big question here was: How do I define the best school? What should I be looking for? How do I choose?
“V” she said for the 7th time, a little louder than before to try and get his attention. It wasn’t really working, he was very occupied with all the toys in the room and simply didn’t hear her. The physician looked at me and asked: “Is this normal form him? Is it common that he does not respond to his name?”. The sinking feeling became more profound and I nodded. Still, I felt like I had to give him something so I added: “But this is extra bad, it usually not this hard to get his attention. I guess it’s all the new toy that is distracting him”. Despite my excuses the sinking feeling no longer threatened to take over but comfortably settled into the armchair of my mind. The tiny sense of hope vanished and reality checked in again. I knew deep down inside that the outcome of this evaluation was not going to be good.
Almost a year ago, we heard the mention of autism in relation to our older son for the first time. It was merely one word in a long recitation of plausible things that a diagnosis process could lead to and out of those, autism was not at the top of our minds. It was also the first time since we moved to Denmark that our request for some extra support at the kindergarten was received positively. Soon after, an application for support was finalized and a few months later we got the news that JA had been granted 8 hours of support per week starting in August 2011. Although we had hoped for more support (the maximum support possible consists of 16 hours per week) we were glad that he would finally get some support. And what a difference it made!
For those of you who do not know, we currently live in Denmark where my husband and I are working on our graduate degrees. We moved here in the summer of 2010 and our original plan was to live here for a few years and not only finish our degrees but also gain some work experience in a foreign country. However, when the news of our son’s autism diagnosis struck, everything changed and suddenly our future plans were up in the air.