My Family Left NYC To Give Our 5-year-old Son With ASD The Life He Deserved
By Eve Tedeschi
After 15 years in NYC and 19 years in the Northeast, we made the decision to move to Texas. This decision was taken very seriously and came about for a few major reasons, all centering around our son, Wyatt, aka “Dubbers” (now 5 years old) and the life he, and we, deserved to lead.
Now that we are officially out of New York City, I can speak more openly about our experiences and why we chose the path we did. As I have said, we were fortunate to learn of Dubbers’ needs while he was just an infant. Therefore, we were able to begin Early Intervention at just nine months. At the time, we were not only first-time parents, but neither my husband or myself had any experience with navigating any part of the disability world. I remember going thru the motions once he qualified for Early Intervention (EI), meeting with our assigned Service Coordinator and attending the first IFSP meeting. At this point, everything was a blur and to be honest, I don’t think I realized the magnitude of it all. As developmental milestones were not met, Dubbers qualified for more and more therapy services. By the time he was 18 months, his days went from the typical NYC baby circuit of play dates, gymtime and little maestro classes to Dr. appointments, sensory gyms and home therapy. In turn, I went from managing a career in fashion merchandising to a mom navigating this new world of raising a child with “special needs”.
When Dubbers turned three and aged out of EI, we made the decision to go “private” versus proceeding in the CPSE (Committee for Pre-School Education) domain. This subject alone could (and eventually will) be its own post, so for now I will simplify this extremely long and complex process. Like all individuals, Dubbers is special...there is no one else like him. It’s like that saying, “If you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism,” Dr. Stephen Shore. Therefore, it was imperative Dubbers received individualized attention, strategic planning and a devoted, cohesive team. After much research, visits to public programs, conversations with current therapists and networking with other parents, it was clear the NYC Department of Education (DOE) did not offer a program appropriate for Dubbers’ needs.
Fast forward two years, and the time is the Fall season prior to Dubbers turning 5 years old. Having been on auto-pilot, regarding Dubbers and his therapy program, this was the point in time when my foot slammed on the brake and we knew it was time to change direction. Dubbers was outgrowing his therapy center that had served him perfectly for two years, and it was time to move on and break out of this “bubble”. Our number one goal was to find an inclusion program where Dubbers would learn and grow with appropriate peer models. I applied, toured and spoke with countless schools, both mainstream and specialized throughout Manhattan. For a city that had offered so much these past five years, it unfortunately came up short when it came to inclusion.
If you asked me ten, or even five years ago if I would ever move back to Texas, the answer would have been a firm No. Not for any other reason than being content in NYC and the tri-state area. I loved going home to visit, as my parents still lived in Dallas. We had even gotten married in Dallas! After fifteen years, both my husband and I shared frustrations around city living...the expense, the grind, and the limits, which had been manageable up until Dubbers was born. Now, there was a reason to finally step back and question it all.
Support is crucial when raising a child with special needs, so considering being close to my parents was a key factor. A slower-pace lifestyle was also intriguing, along with the space and warmer weather, but the undeniable most important reason we made the move to Dallas was for the school system. After months of research and a trip down with one of Dubbers’ former therapists, we selected a handful of specialized and public schools to visit and were able to see the classrooms and speak directly with the principals and Special Education staff. While we were very impressed with how many options there were catering to “special” children, one school district overwhelmingly exceeded our expectations and it happened to be public! Dubbers would be part of a program where he would spend part of his school day in his general-ed classroom, with some support, and be pulled out for more individualized as needed. This is inclusion at its finest. I could go on and on, but we knew we had made the best decision possible, when, after his first few days in school, we were told Dubbers was spending all his time in the general-ed classroom except for just one hour a day! We realize this may not last, but we also understand this staff is going to do everything possible to make him successful in this environment. We are confident we made the right decision with this move, and needless to say, beyond grateful.
Where do you live?
5 words that describe you...
Loyal Genuine, Reserved, Determined, Homebody
Your child’s name and age:
Wyatt, aka “Dubbers” - age 5
How do your children inspire you?
It is not lost on Wyatt that he has some challenges that keep him from communicating “typically” as most other children. Yet Wyatt goes to school, enjoys the same activities, and attends birthday parties, etc. all with no fear. He never gives us a reason to believe he is intimidated or feeling inferior. He lives as “Wyatt” and his humble spirit is infectious to all who know him.
What’s the one thing you wish people knew about Wyatt?
Keep making the effort to include and engage. He may not understand or be as quick with social cues or answering your questions, but please do not give up.
What’s in your bag of tricks when you are out with your kids?
Very simple: iPad and M&M’s
What is an activity your whole family loves to do together?
Go out to eat, swim, visit friends and snuggle :)
How do you survive a tough day of parenting?
I get lost in whatever project I have going on at the time. I’m always on my iPad at night, either online shopping, working on a blog post, or catching up on emails and text messages. I also share my tough days with my husband, parents, brother and close friends. I’m not one to hold things in, but find it more therapeutic to share.
What is the last thing you purchased for yourself that made you really, really happy?
Well since we just bought a house, I have loved transforming it into our own with various updates. I never knew picking out light fixtures would be so fun! (And this was definitely one of those “projects” I mentioned above where I may have obsessed over for several nights.)
Do you make the time for self-care? If so, what is your self-care ritual?
I try, but it definitely may not always be a priority, especially if I have a lot going on with Wyatt...physically, emotionally or am just flat out exhausted. I do love a good massage though!
What advice would you give to a new special needs parent?
Do not waste time. Whether it be a Doctor you do not feel is taking your child’s needs seriously or a Therapist not being the right fit, move on. No one cares about your child more then you, so hold your standards high, when it comes to people working with or caring for them.
3 Moms or Dads you follow on social media that inspire you and why?
- My friend from growing up, @brooke_fulham. She is a military wife and mother of three. Her middle child, Weston, has Cystic Fibrosis. Brooke does an incredible job explaining the effects of this disease and documenting not only Weston’s struggles, but his accomplishments.
- A new friend since moving to Dallas, @kjschorr. She has a son who is 13 and went thru the same school program Wyatt is in. Kelly was so helpful when I first moved here over the summer, as she has been through just about everything. Her posts always make me smile.
- I also love @catandnat for their humor, honesty, and friendship. They tell it like it is and do not try to be anyone but themselves!
What quote do you live by?
It doesn’t matter where you’re going, it’s who you have beside you.