One of the biggest changes to our flight plan over the years is our middle son Nicholas. Nicholas has autism which has dramatically changed the way our family operates. Early after Nick’s diagnosis I read a short essay entitled “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Perl Kingsley that was helpful in gaining some perspective on our situation. The premise of the essay is that having a child is like preparing to live in Italy, you learn the language, get excited about all the stuff to see and do and you are off! When you arrive, you find you are in a different country with a different language and culture. You are lost.
There are some striking similarities.
On one level, you have challenges that parents who don’t have a special needs child will never understand. A special needs child is a huge drain on the family and a marriage. The “regular” kids in your family often take a backseat to the requirements of the special needs child. Your dreams for your child seem gone forever.
But on another level, a special needs child can be an immense blessing, pulling a family and a marriage even closer together as you face the challenges laid out for you. It is never easy, but it gets easier and you come to have new dreams for your child.
I know for a fact that Nick has made me a better father and husband. For a kid with autism he is fairly flexible, fairly verbal and a very fun kid. He loves to hike, swim, play Minecraft on the computer and draw intricate road designs with sidewalk chalk. He used to make the most amazing 3D structures out of masking tape, but we finally weaned him off after we had to re-carpet our house due to tape residue.
We don’t know what the future holds for Nick, we hope he can find some employment opportunities and potentially live in a group setting, but the most important thing for us is that he is happy.
We are looking into options for a Special Needs Trust to safeguard some money for Nick and additionally the military’s Survivor Benefit Program is something that could provide income for Nick in the future. I will discuss the Survivor Benefit Program in a later post.
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