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My Brother Matthew: From Life-threatening Behavior to a Life without Medication

Last week, I went to visit Matthew. I last saw him with my husband in October when I ran the Bay State Marathon. This time I was with my 17 year old daughter. I was the only driver and as always, the drive seems like it's never going to end. My daughter fell asleep during the ride and I could not play any music, lest I wake her up. So boring. I wish he did not have to live so far away and I could see him more often than three times a year, not have to take that long boring drive up I-95.

I remember when Matthew went there the first time, when I was a teenager myself. Judge Rotenberg Center (known as BRI) back then, the only school in the US that would accept him, told my mother they could pick him up three days after he obtained Board of Education funding, but my mother did not want him to miss even one day of school, so she drove him from the hospital, what Matthew considered home for over five months, to BRI, with my uncle in the back seat to manage any problem behavior. He was obese. drooling, and barely able to be heard from all those medications he was taking. During the ride, he was anxious where he was going, and for once he went a few hours without sleeping from all those medications.

When Matthew got there, Matthew cried he wanted to go back to the hospital. My mother told him, "You're a boy and boys go to school." A lady gave him a toy school bus and told him he would be riding one later that evening. He finally got distracted watching Wheel of Fortune, and then we left him there. My mother then paid for me to go to driving school so she could have a second driver. We visited him every three weeks.

Fast forward 29 years later. I am now a mother of a child of autism myself and in the car with my now teenage daughter. I go see Matthew, alert, medication free, all excited to see me, go out to dinner and look all the maps I brought him. After dinner he enjoyed a piece of the chocolate brownies I baked for him and his housemates and staff. The next two days we go to museums, he knows all his bird sounds. He is so happy.

The next day, I am on a long drive home, 5 1/2 hours, going on city streets to avoid traffic on the interstate. I am fed up driving at night and holding myself back to drive faster than the speed limit, just wanting to get home. Again I wish, he could live near me, but then I realize, he's happy, content, and that is what really matters.