My son’s life is immeasurably better because of Jocelyn

A little over six years ago I wrote at Blogging Blue about the death of Jocelyn Flashinski. Jocelyn touched my son’s life in a truly impactful way and I now that I’ve ventured out into a new blog I wanted to share what I wrote here.

Those of you who are regular readers of Blogging Blue know that while I write a lot about politics, news, current events, etc., I will from time to time get a little personal and write about life, family etc.

Among the topics I’ve touched on a few times is my family’s experience with autism, specifically in the case of my son Nick. Nick was diagnosed as being autistic when he was two years old, and after his diagnosis it felt like our family’s world had been turned upside-down. We didn’t know what that meant for us – and more importantly for Nick – but we knew we were going to do whatever it took to help Nick.

After Nick’s diagnosis, we were referred to the Autism Behavioral Network to begin the process of receiving intensive in-home therapy to help spur Nick’s development, improve his behavior, and give him the skills he’d need to function at a high level. Among the first staff assigned to work with Nick was Jocelyn, his lead therapist. Jocelyn quickly built a team of therapists (in addition to doing some of Nick’s therapy herself), and we quickly saw progress in Nick.

Over the course of the next few years, Nick’s team members came and went, but the one constant in Nick’s life was Jocelyn, and he was all the better for it. Jocelyn always knew exactly what to do to get Nick through a rough patch, and in many ways she helped lay the foundation for many of the gains Nick has made both at home and in school over the past few years.

Today is my son’s ninth birthday, and I’m in tears because I see so much potential for him to have a great life – and in many ways Jocelyn helped Nick tap into that potential. However, I’m also in tears because our family found out late last week that Jocelyn, who had made such a tremendous impact in our son’s life – not to mention our own – took her own life.

I don’t presume to know why Jocelyn did what she did, except to say that she must have had a great deal of hurt inside her, but I do know she’ll be missed terribly.

Jessica McBride of the Caledonia Patch has an excellent story about the impact Jocelyn had on so many autistic children during her too-short life, but this passage hit home particularly hard.

Whenever Jocelyn Flashinski was coming over for therapy, young Mario Martinez, who is autistic, would wait impatiently for her.

“He would sit at the window or the door. He would recognize her car. He would say ‘Jocelyn’s coming today,’” said the now 9-year-old boy’s father, Jesse Martinez of Milwaukee.

My son Nick was one of what I’m sure were many kids who waited at the window or the door for Jocelyn to show up to visit, and his life – and the lives of so many other children and their families – will be forever changed for the better because of Jocelyn.