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‘Instead Of Our Visits, I Sing To Him’: What The Pandemic Means For A Mom And Her Autistic Son03:15
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The author and her son, Finn, in 2017, a few months before his 10th birthday, in Cambridge, Mass. (Courtesy)
The author and her son, Finn, in 2017, a few months before his 10th birthday, in Cambridge, Mass. (Courtesy)

Editor's note: An audio version of this essay, read by the author, will be added to this page when it becomes available.

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Every Sunday, my husband and I drive 45 minutes from our house in Cambridge to our son Finn’s residential home in Framingham.

Finn is 12. For the last three years, he’s lived there with eight other boys. They are kids, like him, who attend the New England Center for Children. It’s a school that serves children with autism.

Finn lives there because his needs are beyond what we can provide. It would be physically dangerous for us, and for him, to keep him at home.

Our weekly visits are sacred to my family. Every Sunday is crossed off our social calendar.

When we bring Finn back to Cambridge for the day, we take him to all his favorite spots — to CVS to buy Tic Tacs and Shaws to buy fried chicken wings. We go to the local park to watch the dogs run and play.

But our Sunday routine, like many others, was disrupted this month.

Finn’s school has suspended all day programs. They plan to keep the residential program open as long as possible — as long as the staff is healthy, they’ll stay open. In a letter the school wrote us, it read: “If you want your child home, then you are taking them for the duration of the crisis.”

We can’t do that. So, it means that we can’t see Finn in person anymore. At least for now.

Now I can only connect with my son through Skype.

A screen shot of a March 2020 Skype call between the author and her son, Finn, who is sitting with his teacher, Taylor Bolitho. (Courtesy)
A screen shot of a March 2020 Skype call between the author and her son, Finn, who is sitting with his teacher, Taylor Bolitho. (Courtesy)

Finn is non-verbal. He relies on a system of pointing and pictures to communicate.

Instead of our visits, I sing to him. I blow him raspberries and make our dog bark. Anything to make him laugh, a sound I crave.

I ask him: “How much do I love you?” And he shoots his hands up in the air: “SO much!” I answer.

I’m incredibly grateful to Finn’s school. We are lucky. His caregivers are dedicated and energetic and considered essential workers by Governor Baker. But nothing can replace the feeling of his soft touch, his hand in my hand, my fingers through his hair.

We’re all suffering right now. So many of us are vulnerable. Please keep the physically, intellectually, and emotionally disabled members of our society in your thoughts, too.

This segment aired on March 27, 2020.

Related:

Alysia Abbott Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Alysia Abbott runs the Memoir Incubator program at Grub Street and is the author of "Fairyland, A Memoir of My Father" (W.W. Norton, 2013). She lives with her family in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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