It’s all in the attitude for this tall, dark, and autistic fellow, a rangy six-footer with a sexy five o’clock shadow—and the mind of a good-natured adolescent. But twenty-one year old David is desperate to tackle life on his own terms even if it means getting kicked around a bit.
Weaving bittersweet and funny anecdotes from David’s life as the youngest of three testosterone-soaked brothers, Next Stop recounts the complex relationship between an autistic adult child and his family as he steps out into the real world--solo. Rendered without sentimentality, the story is grounded in the personal narrative of a mother’s perpetually tested hope. Hardwired to protect him, letting go turns out to be harder for her than her son.
With the difficulty he has in conveying his thoughts, things twist and turn in whimsical, heart-wrenching, and even dangerous ways. On a childhood visit to his 88-year old grandmother, the retired no-nonsense Special Ed teacher shows him how to drive her old Buick, then falls asleep in the passenger seat as David chauffeurs her all over town.
Through his high school years, David becomes a sort of mascot for theatrical hugs from his peers, but the phone never rings for him at home. As the prospect of becoming real empty nesters gleams in the near future for David’s parents, there are candid snapshots of their long, affectionate, but frequently Dave-interrupted marriage. Things take an alarming turn when, on his own a thousand miles from home, David finds himself the unsuspecting passenger in a stranger’s car headed for the Florida Everglades. Later, when he takes his first solo Metro ride, we watch from behind a raised newspaper as the doors bang close and David disappears into a dark tunnel. When the doors open next, this young man’s life has been changed forever.
Parents of special needs adult children will relate to the utter fatigue of raising the differently-abled child and the world of expensive therapies and persistent evaluations which lead them to prickly finger-pointing between the sheets. When David dubs his doctors “professional strangers,” it becomes clear there is no magic pill to fix him. As we discover along the way, none of this really matters. David, like any child, simply is, so his parents, like all parents, learn to just take it from there and move forward.