My summer began late in May when my parents came back from their annual winter trip to California. They stayed longer this year because my dad was not feeling well enough to drive back across the country. He and Mom visited with all of their grandchildren in California but it was hard for him and he rested more than he visited at each home. Finally, my parents decided to come back to Minnesota despite his illness, but Mom, who does not drive ordinarily, did almost all the driving. I saw my father, the first day that he returned, and I knew he was seriously ill. When he finally agreed to go to the doctor, a few days later, I went with him to the Veteran's Clinic. After few minutes, the doctor told my father that he was dying. No tests needed. Just a look. A week and a half later, my father was gone.
An event like having a parent die, becomes a catalyst for change for many people, I suspect. I don't think it is just me. When I took time to reflect on my own life, I knew it was time to do something different. I decided it was time to practice my profession in a different setting.
I have had kind of a personal mission for about the last fifteen years. I remember the exact weekend that I suddenly felt compelled to try to make things better for children with autism. I had seen a child with autism in a very unhappy situation and I saw that the people responsible for him, even the people who loved him, did not know what to do. I had lots of ideas on how things could be better for him. So, I set out to be a source of inspiration and practical knowledge, and to advocate with bulldog persistence on behalf of children with autism. The clinic where I worked, The Scottish Rite Clinic for Childhood Language Disorders, supported me in every possible way. I might have long since given up without that support. Happily, the world of knowledge and skill related to autism has changed dramatically. I think I helped to make this so, but plenty happened beyond my reach and influence. There are still so many needs, of course. There is no real end point on a mission like "making things better", but sitting next to my dad in what suddenly became our hospice living room, I reflected on the possibility that I had actually done what I set out to do.
So, I resigned from a job that I have loved at the beginning of the summer. (I want you to know that that is really a hard thing to do.) I took the summer off. As fall begins, I will start a new job and see what else I can accomplish. I am not finished with my service to children with autism, by any means. I took a position in a school where there are many students who have this diagnosis. But, I took a job as the school Speech Language Pathologist, not as an autism specialist. I don't know yet if I will continue to write Autism Games blog posts. It feels like I aught to either say goodbye here or say I will be back with more. But, I really don't know. So, that was my summer.