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Why the Piece of Mind Retreat?
My husband and I are travelers. As educators, we had envisioned summer wanderings with the children in tow – starting local and moving toward more distant locales. But just as we might have hit our stride in parenting two kids – on the eve of their 2nd and 5th birthdays, respectively, a diagnosis of autism rocked our world – and changed our lives almost overnight.
Suddenly, our lives were highly scheduled
We couldn’t bear the thought of missing an hour, let alone a day or a week of the precious “early intervention” that was going to give us our child – and our “normal” lives – back. We did have a few family trips planned, so we maintained those commitments – braving airports before TSA Cares was fully up and running.
Staying in places where we had to sleep in the same bed as him, pinning him down so he didn’t run wild through the house. Renting homes with fragile shell collections that made our heart stop each time we crossed the threshold. Vacation homes with rooms so intricately decorated that we took pictures of the room, then emptied it, before allowing Mr. Diggy inside. In other words, these “vacations” were not vacations – they were exhausting.
So, like many special needs families, we stayed put.
Our radius shrank. We got to a point where Mr. Diggy hadn’t been on a plane in almost four years. The rest of the family’s travel slowed as well. It was at that point that we knew we had to rethink special needs travel. So we did.
We implemented sibling travel – my husband and I alternating trips with Brother B for week-long trips abroad. These trips are filled with unusual foods, ancient artifacts, and erratic schedules – in other words, a nightmare for many autistic individuals. We also have carved out time for couples travel, and we have supported each other in individual travel as well.
But in the end, we still wanted to travel as a family. So we packed up our sensory survival kit, and booked the family flights to Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii. We did our best to find a place that would work for us, and we managed the best we could. But we also saw they joy on his face when he could swim in the middle of winter. The hours in the sun, sand and sea showed us he was clearly in his happy place as well.
Then, the night before we flew home, he bit a toy releasing blue liquid all over the white carpet in our rental home. So as we ran to Target and watched carpet-cleaning videos on YouTube, an idea began to crystallize.
What if there was a place we could take him that we didn’t have to worry? What if we could find or create a place that met his needs – and thus would actually allow us to fully relax on a vacation? What if this #autismfamily could find some peace of mind? And such was the genesis of the Piece of Mind Retreat.
The idea has percolated for quite awhile. We know pretty well what we do NOT want – no tempting gas stoves, no kids’ bedrooms with too-easy access to the outdoors, no super-close neighbors. We then started to get a sense of what we DO want – a family-friendly, stand-alone home with a pool, and a view. A place where you could spend 95% of your vacation without even leaving the place and still emerge feeling rested and relaxed. A place where siblings and cousins and friends would be happy and occupied. And so it is that we are creating the Piece of Mind Retreat.
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