I don’t know if this is just a sort of honeymoon period, but Ben’s transition has gone amazingly well so far. It’s been over a month now, and virtually all the reports have been glowing. He’s now had five visits from his favorite people: Karen’s sister and her husband; then Pam, who has been working with Ben since he was 3; Karen’s parents; Karen’s brother Jordy; the Big Visit--us; and Karen with Ben’s brother Jake. I really think the visits that took place before Karen and I visited--which all went wonderfully--established the pattern that people come, visit, and leave, which made the “farewell” after our visit go smoothly. In fact, when we stood up to leave, Ben bolted up with us, saying “car.” We said, “No Ben, your going to stay here with Chad (his teacher), but we’ll be back soon for another visit!” Then we hugged him and, as we turned to go, Ben hugged Chad. We can’t be sure, but it seemed that Ben was able to comfort himself by hugging Chad as we left, which says plenty regarding his comfort level and the sense of security he’s developing with the people at the ODTC. It was a moment as encouraging as it was poignant, if not also a touch heartbreaking.
He’s continuing his life-long growth spurt (he’s now 6’3”), and between that and his new eating regimen (the other day, he actually ate scrambled eggs), he is slimming down nicely. From what we can tell, he’s thriving in the wall-to-wall programming. Every report and every visit provides us with more assurances that he’s precisely where he needs to be.
Sunday’s his birthday (13!), and Karen and I are going to go up and get a hotel room in the morning, then go to get Ben, take him out to a restaurant (he knows and likes Denny’s, so that might be the one) for lunch and cake with candles, which he loves blowing out, and then to the hotel for a nice, long swim (he LOVES swimming, but the ODTC doesn’t do much water stuff, for safety reasons), followed by a trip to McDonald’s (of course, his all-time favorite restaurant), before we go back to the ODTC. We’ll have Jake with us, and Karen’s parents are driving up, too, so it should be fun for Ben. It’ll be our first off-campus visit, and I’ll prepare a social story to read to him when we get there so he knows what to expect--but I still think he’ll be holding out hope that he’ll get to sneak home with us. We’ll see.
As for Karen and I, we miss Ben every day, sometimes achingly so, but at the same time, every day without the tsunami of autism saturating the life of our family feels like a vacation. That Ben is doing well allows us to truly enjoy our new life. If anything good has come from life with autism, it is a profound appreciation for the every-day--a sense of the ordinary feeling extraordinary. Even having a cold for the past week has been almost enjoyable because now, a cold is just a cold, not a reason for panic (Ben gets cold>gets cranky>won’t eat or drink the stuff with his meds>sleep goes completely wacky>behavior spirals out of control, etcetera, et-freaking-cetera). The other day, someone asked us if we’d gotten used to this new life yet, and I said, “No, and I hope we never do.”