Editor’s Note: Carlsbad, CA–Dione Lamm is one of the brightest women I have ever met and is very knowledgeable about autism. In addition to having been a simultaneous translator for the United Nations, she is a wonderful mother and wife, an interior designer, a quick wit an energetic student of life–and now a San Diego Realtor with San Diego Previews Real Estate. She is also incredibly organized, and is kind enough to share her experiences in getting appropriate care for their autistic son.
It is hoped that Dione’s experiences and guidance may help other San Diego parents who require assistance for their very special and autistic children.–Roberta Murphy
by Dione Lamm
We have all heard the old adage that there is nothing more stressful than divorce, death or moving, but if you are the parent of a child with autism you know a different kind of stress than anyone else.
You know that sometimes just going out of the house, into a store or to the doctor’s office with an autistic child requires special survival skills. But at least you are on home turf. What happens when you travel–or God forbid, are moving to a new city, state or country where you know little or nothing of the services that may be available to you and your autistic child?
In my case, our family moved all the way from Europe to the San Diego area. Preparing for the move was not very problematic, because I had already become an expert at minimizing the effects of stress and changes on our autistic son, who was by now a strapping 15-year-old.
But how would we all adjust to our new environment in Carlsbad, California–a northern coastal suburb of San Diego?
For eight months prior to our big move, I spent countless hours on the internet, made several trans-Atlantic flights and consulted with local San Diego real estate agents. I called every agency and school resource I could find for autism, arranged meetings and had everything set for our son afflicted with autism.
Or so I thought
As our family boarded the plane in Belgium for our final trip and move to San Diego, I felt everything had been done to make this life transition as smooth as possible. We were on our way to a new life with new beginnings, but we were not prepared for struggles that awaited us.
As we tried to enroll our son in an appropriate school, we encountered delays, waiting lists and endless papers to be filled out. And although some of the administrative procedures about drove me to the brink of insanity, I discovered a number of powerful allies who made the search and my job more bearable.
If you are thinking of moving to the San Diego area, your number one supporter will be the Regional Center.
This non-profit organization was created to support, advocate for and defend developmentally disabled children, adolescents and adults. Once your child’s needs are assessed, the Regional Center provides educational advocates, therapy, respite and other vital services free of charge to you. Basically, it is a one-stop shop offering everything you need, and once you have completed the rather lengthy intake process, you can breathe a sigh of relief because the Regional Center then does most of the dirty work for you.
You may have already chosen your home for the school district, only to find that your child’s needs cannot be met there. However, if the right school district is important for normal children, it is even more so for the handicapped. The North Coastal Consortium for Special Education (NCCSE) had a representative in my district who provided alternatives and funding for non-public education for our son. Not all school districts are created equal and you must bear that in mind when searching for the ideal home.
Another valuable source of information is the Exceptional Families Resource Center, who publishes a twelve page directory of commonly referred resources – everything from camps to health care solutions (although the Regional Center publishes a directory of physicians and dentists skilled at dealing with autistic individuals).
I think I must have had a guardian angel watching over me during this move. I found a capable and professional real estate agent, moved to a wonderful neighborhood and benefited from unwavering support from the school district. As with everything in life, you have to start with the right building blocks, and the pieces do eventually fall into place.
Yes, moving is stressful, incredibly so, but as parents of autistic individuals we are certainly used to stress–and are stronger because of it. –D. Lamm
San Diego Regional Center– San Diego 858-576-2996/ La Mesa 619-464-4380/ San Marcos 760-736-1200
North Coastal Consortium for Special Education (although each school district has a special education coordinator) 760-471-8208
Exceptional Families Resource Center San Diego – 800-281-8252 or 619-594-7416
Dione Lamm can be reached at 760-271-1162 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org