||One of my most
important worldly possessions is not something
you can pick up and put in your pocket. It was
time with my step-son, Andrew. Kind, interesting,
and inquisitive, Andrew is also autistic.
When he was eleven, he had difficulty at school
and lacked motivation for both homework and
household chores. In different ways, he conveyed
his desire to study and learn about different
countries of the world (their currency,
governments, etc.). So I came up with a plan
(really more of a bargain), world travel.
If he did his homework and household chores for a
month without being reminded, we would travel to
some far-off destination. This agreement did not
make him non-autistic. He still suffered from his
challenges, but it helped his motivation level
and he made remarkable improvement.
That year Andrew and I went to Beijing, China.
The following year we went to London. Every year
after that we went to a new destination: Paris,
Hong Kong, Bangkok, New York, San Francisco,
Seattle, New Orleans, and many places within
driving distance of Minneapolis. Amateur
photographer became one of my monikers and our
family website is loaded with pictures from our
All this travel really developed Andrew as a
person and made me a far better father. I gained
a better understanding of how the core tasks of
parenthood (unconditional love, discipline,
teaching, and building self-esteem) lead our
children towards reaching their potential.
Andrew is twenty-nine now, living independently,
working part-time, and leading a happy and