I don’t know if this would actually surprise people who know me or not. It probably shouldn’t be a shock, but who knows?
On and off over the years, I’ve weighed the idea of aliyah (immigration to Israel). We’re not overly religious, but I will admit that I do still oftentimes feel like a fish out of water here, and that there’s something about the idea of living Israel that just speaks to part of me.
Obviously, even before children, there were major drawbacks. Most of our families are based here in the United States (I have a few more distant cousins in Israel, and my wife has a first cousin in Switzerland, and we have friends and family-of-friends over in Israel as well). Things simply cost more over there in many categories, including staple goods. There’s that pesky threat-of-war thing too. Oh, and my wife doesn’t speak the language, not that my Hebrew is fantastic either. But, on the positive side, my current employer has offices over there, so I’d not have to necessarily quit my job, and there are even members of the teams I work on who are geographically distributed.
And then we came into the Monster’s issues. Autism throws a massive monkey wrench into relocation, especially internationally. Consider, for instance, that to get services in Israel, you have to have your medical records translated into Hebrew, according to Nefesh B’nefesh’s Aliyapedia. Or as the Jerusalem Post pointed out in an article a few months ago, people with Autism get bounced around even more in the Israeli system than they do in the American one, between government departments, as they age.
But still, my job offers what we call “job adventure”, which means you can temporarily or permanently transfer your job overseas. And even with the diagnosis, we’ve still discussed the idea of a summer or year in Israel. So then you have to weigh the difficulties that we’d face:
- The Monster has enough trouble with communication in English. Most kindergartens and nursery schools are not in the language. Not that, mind you, he doesn’t have a half-decent vocabulary in Hebrew for a 4 year old. He understands simple, frequently repeated instructions in Hebrew, but I’d be shocked if he could give them in return.
- I haven’t the foggiest what we’d do about OT and speech for the time period.
- I also don’t know what an extended foreign trip would do vis-a-vis getting services back here in the States when we returned.
So any sane parent in this situation would probably be throwing their hands up, and just simply settling for thinking of a short-term trip over, right?
A few nights ago, the wife was doing something else, and called me over to her computer. She’d found something interesting, while looking up vacation ideas (not Israel-specific) and had stumbled across a group called ALUT. ALUT is the Israeli Society for Autistic Children. (To be fair, she’d found Friends of ALUT, which is wholly in English, and is the site that ALUT directs folks to if you go beyond their basic ‘English info’ page.) What she’d stumbled across was something called Aluteva, a guest house they run for families with autistic children. Basically, the idea of the guesthouse is this – it’s a place where you can go for a long weekend, where there is a trained staff to take care of your autistic child so you can tend to your other children and recharge.
I think that would appeal to a lot of parents. What appealed to me, though, was the list of their other projects. ALUT runs summer camps, special-needs nursery schools and adult residential group-homes. They do vocational training for people on the spectrum, and help with training professionals to treat people on the spectrum.
I don’t know if this would actually be an option for us (unless we actually made aliyah), but it certainly goes a decent way towards possibly making something longer than a ‘trip’ possible…