AwareNow: Issue 18: The Outside Edition

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Page 35

When Joaquin felt loved, appreciated, and free, he could relax. Everyone in the family could relax.

At home, Mom mostly played flamenco records and Dad played oldies but goodies from the 1950’s. But in elementary school, one of my teachers played the guitar and taught our class to sing “Country Roads.” I learned the lyrics in one day. And for years, each night at bedtime, I sang Joaquin to sleep with that song.

Fast forward to 17 years old, 6 feet tall, and 200 pounds of rage. Joaquin was forced by his “special” school to take psychotropic medications to control HIS behaviors. He had severe allergic reactions to those medications, causing extreme aggression, and rendering him and our family hostage to a system not equipped for, nor interested in, humanely supporting behavioral crises. Joaquin was taken to a state institution 2 hours away from home, where human degradation was also the norm.

Our family was devastated and in mourning over this great loss. However, every weekend, we took that 2-hour drive to the institution and back, to visit Joaquin, and take him out to be with nature. For 15 years, we did this.

We promised Joaquin that we would take him home again. And this time, we would protect him. He would never again be subject to restraint, seclusion, and abuse. We would create a place where he belonged, built around his strengths, wants, and needs. And we knew, it had to be on a country road.

After 3 years in court, we finally won our case. This year marks the 10 year anniversary of Joaquin living in his own home at the end of our beautiful and peaceful dirt road, where the breeze embraces his every whim, the sun warms his heart, and the birds greet him each morning. Almost heaven. ∎

Diana Carson works to support educators and families in building inclusive communities through respectful disability awareness. You can get her free e-book resource entitled 5 Keys to Going Beyond Awareness: