Once we had the school district’s agreement that Devin would most likely benefit from residential care, the following days flew by! Paperwork needed to be completed, the things that he would need had to be packed, and I had to deal with all of the wild emotions that were racing through my brain!
Finding a place for Devin
First we had to find a facility that was both appropriate for his needs and had space available! Although the town we live in has a residential care facility, they only work with individuals who are adults — Devin was only 10! The facility that Devin’s psychiatrist had first talked about did not have any openings. The autism behavior specialist that we were working with through our school district quickly found a facility that would have an opening in the near future.
Once the application had been sent to the facility, we had to set up a meeting with them so that Devin’s needs could be discussed and a determination could be made on whether they felt that they could help. At the same time, we knew that it would be approximately 10 to 14 days before they could take him. The autism specialist that we were working with explained to me that she felt it was not safe for Devin and I to be at home alone together, so she arranged for him to be admitted to the pediatric behavioral health facility that he had recently been at until the residential facility had a room for him.
Talk about conflicting emotions! I wanted Devin to get the help that he needed but at the same time I was afraid that he would think that I was abandoning him! And I now did not know whether I should be scared to be alone with him or not! The few nights between that discussion and taking him to the meeting and admission to the medical facility were sleepless, to say the least!
After a 3-hour drive to reach the city where both the residential care and behavioral health facilities were located, we walked into the educational center of the residential care facility to meet with staff members. Devin was not sure what was going on. As the meeting started, he came and sat on my lap and rested his head on my shoulder. The meeting was a bit intimidating, to say the least, and of course at this moment Devin was being very well-behaved. Maybe I was making a mistake!
A sign that we had the right facility
And then it started — the incessant “Mom, can we leave now?”, the punching on the arm, acting like he was going to bite my arm, etc. After I told him several times that he needed to stop with no changes in the behaviors, one of the staff members stood up and said, “Devin, why don’t you come with me?” I panicked before I remembered that they did not have an open room at this time. Then the staff member looked at me and said that he was going to take Devin for a walk outside. I was able to breathe again!
Approximately an hour later, the director of the facility said that he felt that their facility would be able to assist Devin with his issues once they had an open room in their house. By this time, the staff member who had taken Devin out of the room had returned and my son was much more at ease. I found out that this helpful staff member was actually the residential manager of the house where Devin would be living. Knowing that definitely helped to put me at ease!
Feeling at peace with the decision
As we left the facility to have Devin admitted to the behavioral health facility until a room opened up, I felt a sense of peace that I had not felt for weeks. I was able to see that I was taking this drastic step to try to give my son a chance at a normal life, or as normal as it could be with autism. And I felt confident that the staff members that I had just met were the right people to work with Devin.
Devin stayed at the behavioral health facility for another 10 days before we were finally able to move him to the residential care facility. I once again drove 3 hours to discharge him from the behavioral health unit and then drove to the residential care facility’s educational center, where I signed off on what seemed like hundreds of forms. Then it was time to transfer his belongings from my vehicle to theirs — they would be taking him to his new residence without me, to avoid any potential issues.
“Are you giving me away?”
As I hugged my son before I left, he looked at me and said, “Mom, are you giving me away?” With tears streaming down my face, I answered him, “Devin, nobody could ever force me to give you away! You are my son — these people are going to help you, and I will be here as often as I can. I promise! I love you!”
As a staff member instructed him to get into the van, I watched my son climb in and buckle his seatbelt. There was no emotion on his face at all. After he was buckled in, he turned to the window and looked at me — and broke out into a big grin! I waved goodbye before I had to turn away to keep him from seeing me break down.
My drive home that afternoon was a mixture of emotions and questions running through my head. And when I walked in the house at the end of the drive, I realized just how empty my house was without that bundle of energy to liven it up! I walked into my bedroom, sprawled out on the bed and cried myself to sleep!