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.

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10 Responses to My son’s life is immeasurably better because of Jocelyn

  1. Monica says:

    This has been a hard one for me to wrap my brain around. Right from the start it was a horribly tragic story. And, then, you wrote Jocelyn was Nick’s therapist and my heart sunk further. The news story I read about Jocelyn’s death made it sound like she took her own life, but I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even know her but I kept saying there is no way such a beautiful woman who has dedicated her life to children with autism would take her own life. She has too many children who need her. But, then, Patti confirmed earlier that Jocelyn did indeed decide she couldn’t go on. I have so many thoughts racing around my head, which end up in the same place, me asking “why”. A question that will never be answered.

    Then my thoughts go to Nick and the other children she was helping. How do you tell them? Do you tell them? Do they know? My heart breaks for Nick and Jocelyn’s other children. She had a special gift and thank God Jocelyn was able to help Nick and all her other children.

    • Zach says:

      Monica, thanks for your comment. To be honest, I was (and still am) stunned when I heard about Jocelyn’s death. While I can’t presume to know what led her to the point of no return, I can only say I know she’s at peace now.

      • Caitlyn says:

        I didn’t know Jocelyn personally, but my sister Ashleigh was on a few of her teams throughout the years. Anytime I hear a story about someone dying, it breaks my heart weather I knew them or not. But this story really touched me. Ashleigh became close with Jocelyn even after leaving ABN, and it hurts to see her hurt so I can’t even begin to imagine how much pain and sadness her friends,family, and her ABN family must be feeling. I pray for the healing of everyones lives she touched. She was an amazing women for doing the kind of work she did. No one may ever know why she did what she did, but she’s in a better place now, a place where she feels no more pain.
        RIP Jocelyn

  2. It is to your credit that you share this. Whether you care or understand or not, you are arrived as an important storyteller.

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  4. Gramdma Mary says:

    That was beautiful…so was she

  5. Cat Kin says:

    So sorry, Zach. In such situations one always wonders if there was anything that one could have done. Though obviously not.

  6. Todd Flashinski says:

    THANK YOU SO, SO VERY MUCH!! YOU ARE WONDERFUL, LIKE HER!! XOJOYCXLLENTXOXOXO

  7. Todd Flashinski says:

    I still sit at the window pain and wait for her to come back. RIP, sweet girl. XO.

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