A father’s journey to understand his extraordinary son

Mike and I are heading to Wisconsin on Saturday to visit Gus in his group home. Our son moved away when he was 16 years old. That’s a long time ago now, but every visit still reminds us of when he first left eight years ago. So it was particularly poignant to hear Ian Brown interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air this week about his son Walker’s life in a group home.

Ian Brown is a feature writer for Toronto’s The Globe and Mail newspaper. His son Walker does not have autism, but, like Gus, Walker has severe cognitive, developmental and physical disabilities. “He can’t speak,” Ian Brown told Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “He just has no way of rationally communicating — so we spent a long time trying to figure out other ways to connect.”

Mike and I listened to the interview together and could especially relate to Ian Brown’s recollections of bringing their son to a group home for the first time. “I still remember that day,” he told Terry Gross. ”We all drove up there, we dropped him off … and nobody said a word. We got home and there was so much time. So much of it. It was a really terrorizing decision — but a good one, I suppose, in the end.”

So many of the decisions we have to make about — and sometimes, for — our children with disabilities can make us feel so alone. It was so comforting to hear someone tell a story on the radio that was so similar to ours. Ian Brown has written a book called The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Journey to Understand his Extraordinary Son about raising Walker. I’m looking forward to reading It.


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