Aging out: A young man with autism travels home



I’ve been keeping tabs on a story that I listened to on National Public Radio about the decision David Royko and his wife made to move their son, who has autism, to the Oconomowoc Developmental Training Center (ODTC) in Wisconsin when he was 12 years old. The segment was titled “Unconditional Love” and originally aired on the award-winning radio show This American Life.

Ben aged out of the ODTC when he turned 18 and moved to the Monarch School in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Ben turns 22 on July 30 this year, so now these parents need to transition their son back to his home state. This excerpt from a post David Royko wrote last month on his blog about Ben is an honest account of a father’s concern for his extraordinary son:

We don’t know Ben’s degree of understanding what’s coming. We talk with him a lot about moving back to Illinois, seeing Mom and Dad more often and his brother and his aunts and uncles and cousins, and the long, long drive he’ll get coming back. He seems happy when we talk about it. I just don’t think he really knows what’s coming…



Later on in the post, David Royko questions what is best for his son. “We don’t know if this will be different, though it won’t be the first time he’s done this, so he might understand a bit,” he writes. “But really, would that be better or worse for him? Always more questions than answers.”

Transitions are emotionally draining for parents and children with disabilities, especially when everything is so unknown — short term, medium term, long term.

Those of you facing a new transition with a child who has autism might find reading these honest assessments from a loving father very helpful. And if you missed the This American Life radio essay about Ben’s original transition from his home in the Chicago suburbs to the facility in Wisconsin, you can still hear it online.


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