“For a night, Jill’s House carries the burden and we can rest.”
Michael and Brigid Johnson’s introduction to Jill’s House in 2011 could not have been more providential. Their son, Patrick, is severely autistic. Michael, an Army officer, says the burden of caring for Patrick has always fallen primarily on Brigid’s shoulders.
But last summer Brigid was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She subsequently lost her vision.
Patrick enjoys playing instruments in the Jill’s House music room
Michael was heartbroken. During that time, he read this passage from Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Michael pondered the verse the night he found out Brigid had lost her eyesight. The next day he heard about Jill’s House and the help it could provide for Patrick. The timing was uncanny.
Soon, Patrick visited Jill’s House as an extension of his school program at The Aurora School and has since become a “regular.” The Johnsons see Jill’s House and its mission as divinely inspired. “For a night, Jill’s House carries the burden,” says Michael, “and we can rest.”
Michael confesses he was skeptical about Jill’s House’s ability to handle his son. Patrick is six feet tall and weighs 200 pounds. New social situations are challenging for him. Like many others with autism, Patrick thrives on routine and needs to know what to expect. The Johnsons prepare his monthly calendar with care, since Patrick’s photographic memory scans it instantly. When frustrated, Patrick stomps his feet and hits his head. When Michael learned about Jill’s House staff members and the professional training they receive, he realized Jill’s House “had a shot at understanding my son.”
Now, Patrick specifically asks for a Jill’s House visit to be placed on his calendar each month. He loves the facility’s pool, moon bounce and computer time – and Michael and Brigid have time to relax and concentrate on each other. Recently, Brigid toured Jill’s House for the first time with Michael, allowing her to experience firsthand Patrick’s home-away-from-home. Michael patiently and lovingly described the details of each room. Brigid was able to feel the firmness of the beds, experience the sensory rooms, and breathe in the scent of the pool. Brigid’s excitement and enthusiasm was contagious, and Michael’s play-by-play narrative in the course of the tour offered a unique father’s perspective.
“Over and over, Jill’s House gives us successful overnight stays for Patrick,” says Michael. “Each time, it feels like they’re winning a championship.” Jill’s House is honored to be a part of the Johnsons’ winning team!