Around the World Trip with My Autistic Son

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Around the World Trip with My Autistic Son

My personal dream since I was 18 years old was to see the world. If you asked me what I'd do if I won the lottery, I'd have said travel. I was even a travel agent for 16 years in hopes of achieving this goal, but travel agents don't make a lot of money and most get 2 weeks vacation like any other job.

When I was 27 I had my perfectly healthy son. He was colicky and prone to ear infections, but seemed "normal". At 2 years old he began to lose his language and at 3 was diagnosed PDDNOS. Regardless of the diagnosis I call it autism. I don't want to negate any of the work he's done, we've done, by calling it a version of autism lite. He was echolalic, hyper-focused on small objects that he loved to hold very close to his eyes, prone to epic tantrums and wasn't potty trained until he was 4 years old. He didn't say "I love you" until he was 4 either. His form of stimming was screaming. He loved the sound and the feel of a piercing scream, and boy-oh-boy did he scream. I was a single mother for most of his life and there were times I didn't know how we'd make it through, but we did and with flying colors.

My son is now almost 20 years old, graduated from high school last June, and tomorrow will test for his second degree black belt in taekwondo at the school he's been attending in Melbourne, Australia for the last three months. Yes, Australia!

There comes a time in a parents life when you have to figure out what you're going to do with yourself once your child doesn't need you so much. Who am I, what do I want. I've been a caretaker of a beautiful boy with a pervasive development disorder. I've sacrificed friendships and romance because they just couldn't grasp the depth of my responsibility and commitment. Some even said I should have him institutionalized. As if!

I combined my two passions in life, travel and my son, and planned a trip around the world with my son as my travel companion and protector if need be. I mentioned he has his black belt in taekwondo, didn't I? We never needed it, but it was nice to know he had my back.

We left the USA in September of 2012 and headed to Germany to meet up with my best friend from college, then traveled around Europe for 6 weeks, on to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and finally Australia. He's learned a lesson any "normal" teenager should and that is not to speak in hyperbole. All people are not this way or that way. People all over the world want what we all want, to love and be loved, family, friends, food, and shelter. He's learned how to navigate a metro system. He can take a list to the market and come back with all the items and change. He can look at a map, find the barbershop and go get a haircut all by himself. This is HUGE and the confidence he's gained by having some independence is priceless.

I'm not a wealthy woman, by American standards, but I saved up a long time for this and my job as a website developer allows me to work from the road. I was also willing to go into debt to live out my dream and to show my son the world. We've met some of the most amazing people who are now lifetime friends and we've seen some spectacular sights, but mostly we've shared an emotional journey that has created a bond between us I find difficult to articulate. It was worth every penny.

We're heading back to the States on Saturday and will have been gone for exactly 200 days. My son is ready now to tackle his future and I'm ready to let go.


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Cindy - Welcome to healtheo360 and thank you for your beautiful story. This is a true testament to a mother's love and all the wonderful experiences you shared with your Son over the last 20 years. All the great things your Son has accomplished, from graduating from school to getting his second degree black belt in taekwondo is amazing. I wish your Son all the very best as he moves into the next stage of life and also hope that you will continue to be an active member in our community to inspire those families who are just beginning the journey that you have traveled for the last 20 years. You are an inspiration to us all. I hope to hear from you soon and As Always - Be Well.

Mar 27, 2013 - 7:09 AM by David D

What a great MOM!!! Thanks for sharing, Kudos to you and your Lucky Son!!!

Mar 26, 2013 - 9:58 AM by Timothy F

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