One of the themes in narratives about autism is the autism migration theme: families moving, often halfway across the nation, in search of better services, better chances, for their children. A subtheme is the theme of moving from town to town, in search of a better school district, or to live with relatives so there will be enough hands on deck to tend to the needs of our sometimes demanding kids.
Kristina describes the bittersweet of moving from the midwest, where she and her husband Jim had tenure-track and tenured jobs*, to be closer to family and in an area with better autism services. MOM-NOS describes the happy situation of buying a house with her in-laws so that there is a four-to-one ratio of adults to child. A father on the Oprah show talked about giving up the little house he loved and moving in with his mother so that his son could have more care. And recently Jim and Kristina made a similar move because they needed to find a better school.
When we sent Sweet M to a summer day camp a couple of years back, we learned that the town where the camp takes place has the highest precentage of special education and autism kids in the state. No, there's no mercury in the water — there are good services in the public school district. Home resale values in the town have skyrocketed, as that school district became widely known for its programs. (So communities, come on, autism services are good for your real estate values — get moving on better special education services, there's something in it for you.)
At Barry Prizant's autism conference in the fall, many families talked about moving to towns in Massachusetts and Rhode Island where there were better services for their kids than in the towns and cities where they'd initially put down roots. This autism migration isn't exactly on the scale of Steinbeck's dustbowl refugees or the Irish potato famine migrations or the Armenian diaspora, but all across the country families are on the move, looking for services for their kids.
If you have a story about this that you'd like to share, would you post it here? . . . Or email me at mothersvox at gmail dot com? I would like to know more about autism migration.
* Tenure, for those not familiar with academe's arcania, is a tradition akin to hazing wherein after six years of intensive work at teaching, publishing and community service, one can qualify for guaranteed lifetime employment. It's one of the traditions of academe that offsets the relatively low salaries that professors receive (given their years of training and preparation). Although tenure-track jobs are on the decline nationwide as universities use more part-time and contigent labor, for those who have it, it is often hardwon, and hard to give up.