The summer David Finland was twenty-one years old, he and his mother, Glen, navigated the Washington, D.C., Metro trains. Every day. David has autism, and the hope was that if he could learn the train lines, maybe he could get a job. And if he could get a job, then maybe he could move out on his own. And maybe his parents’ marriage could get the jump start it so desperately needed. Maybe.
A candid portrait of a differently abled young man poised at the entry to adulthood, Next Stop recounts the complex relationship between a child with autism and his family as he steps out into the real world alone for the first time. This personal narrative of a mother’s perpetually tested hope is a universal story of how our children grow up and how we learn to let go and reclaim our lives, no matter how hard that may be.
Families trying to find their way with autistic children and the tremendous demands the disorder puts on them create immeasurable fallout for others around them. Finland, mother to an autistic son, explores with unsparing honesty the heartbreak, regrets, and triumphs. The author describes herself as someone who never claimed to be a good mother, just barely good enough. Consumed by the need to look after David, she is at one of his appointments when her eldest son, angry and distant from years of being overlooked, is injured during a high school football game, with no one there to drive him to the emergency room. He retaliates by removing his photos from family collages and for years after they have virtually no relationship. When Finland and her husband get a couple of hours to themselves, where they can hold hands (something David objects to), they make a rule to not talk about him for two hours. The fact that David, who s verbal and athletic, grows up to be one of the luckier adults with autism earning a driver s license, finding employment despite his disorder, and gaining a sense of independence gives hope to the growing number of families struggling with autism and a voice to the misunderstood.