Greg: “Sure, let me give Amy the date so she can hire a sitter.”
Colleague: “A babysitter? How old are your kids?”
Ouch. Deep Breath. Sometimes we forget that most kids Matthew’s current age, 15, ARE the babysitter.
Matthew’s version of 15 is significantly different from most kids. He enjoys watching the preschool TV show, Peppa Pig. He wants a note from me in his school lunch box every day. We still cut his food for him and remind him to use his fork, not his fingers, to eat it. Only one inch shorter than me, he often asks to sit on my lap. Most teenaged boys call their mom “Mom” while I am still “Mommy”.
|Sitting on Daddy's lap last week|
About five years ago, I wished that we could add an accommodation to Matthew’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) that would allow him to stay in elementary school forever. These were safe and predictable years in a comfortable school environment. With this farfetched plan, he’d be in 5thgrade forever. He’d never have to go through puberty or become an adult with autism. Perfect plan according to me back then!
Reflecting on this, I realize that I’d become skilled at parenting a child with autism. But parenting a teen and eventually an adult with autism was not part of my skill set.
But here he is, a freshman in high school. A real teen with autism on his way to adulthood.
When Matthew was in special education preschool, I sat on a mini-chair across from Miss Debbie, his brilliant special education teacher at a parent conference. “What will he be able to do when he gets to elementary school? Will he be able to talk? Make friends? Write his name?” Somehow, I thought she had a crystal ball with the answers to my questions about his future.
|Matthew and Miss Debbie in 2009|
Miss Debbie looked at me with so much hope in her eyes and told me confidently that he was well prepared for all of these challenges and more. “He’s ready, Amy.” He was completely ready to experience all that elementary school had to offer. (At that point of course, I wanted him to stay in preschool forever.)
As 15 will become 25 in a flash, I realize what’s different now. I AM. I’m not that scared mom I once was, wondering if he will ever walk or talk or make friends. I’m not that fearful mom unwilling to move forward. Matthew showed me the way - he made friends, wrote his name and began to talk in his own time. On his own schedule.
Matthew will become an adult with autism and I will acquire the skills needed for this new job. Will it be easy? No - there will be rough patches and smooth stretches. I wish I could ask those crystal ball questions again - Will he be able to work? Will he ever be able to live on his own? Will he have meaningful friendships and be happy? Miss Debbie's words from many years ago echo in my head. He’s ready. Ready for all that high school and adult life have to offer him. He will show me the way like he always has!
|Vacation Time With Some Old Favorites!|