One of our first rainbows appeared the day we found out Jonathan would be accepted into WEAP (Wisconsin Early Autism Project). During my months of research, I discovered ABA-Applied Behavior Analysis and Ivar Lovaas. Everything I was reading at that time cited the need for early intervention. I began to feel dismayed when the only Lovaas approved centers were primarily on the West and East Coast.
After a lengthy and exhausting search, there it was: WEAP, located in three cities in Wisconsin.
For the first time, I felt hopeful as I contacted them. After discussing my son and his current needs, they agreed to see him for initial testing. If he passed, there would be a much longer evaluation afterward to determine if he was a good candidate for ABA. I happily agreed to schedule him, only to find out there was a six month waitlist. That feeling of hope began to fade a bit. Nevertheless, I signed him up and tried to play the waiting game.
Like any persistent mother, I called every week to see if there was a cancellation. Whether it was my resolve that wore them down or luck, they called me back. There had been a cancellation and they asked if Jonathan and I could be in Madison in two days. That dwindling feeling of hope soared, and two days later we flew to Milwaukee! (That is a story in and of itself so look for it in a future post).
Our first meeting lasted about an hour. Most of it consisted of me imparting all of the information I could from the day Jonathan was born until we boarded the plane: family history, current services, school, etc. As we wrapped up, the doctor told me that Jonathan appeared to be a good candidate and they wanted to proceed the following day with a three-hour evaluation. Those were the longest three hours of my life, but they were worth it. The doctor returned with Jonathan and said the words I had hoped and prayed to hear: Welcome to WEAP.
Three weeks later, we made the move from Omaha to Madison on September 25, 1999. The staff at WEAP joked that I set the record for quickest relocation! However, it would be four months until Jonathan could actually start at WEAP as we waited for the Medicaid waiver services approval. In the meantime, we moved into a duplex and I acclimated myself with my new surroundings.
Twenty two years later, I can say without hesitation that it was the best decision and move I’ve ever made. That is not to say it wasn’t without sacrifice or bumps along the way. I made the move by myself with Jonathan and my then thirteen-month-old daughter. My husband’s work required his presence in Omaha, so he became very accustomed to commuting between states. I took on the role of a single mom much of the time. My oldest daughter, who was six at the time, stayed with her Dad while she finished up first grade. She joined us in Madison once the school year ended.
For those first few months in a new city, completely isolated from my family and friends, I waited. Anticipating Jonathan’s chance at a promising future, for his funding to be approved and his program to start. Hoping that the move to Madison would be the answer to my prayers.
The upside about being a mom with two young children: I was so busy I didn’t have a lot of time to think about the waiting or the isolation, just a rainbow of what the future might hold.
Of course, just when I thought I was getting the upper hand that the first downpour appeared.