This past Friday during one of our walks around the campground, Collier asked me if I would teach his kids the way Nana and Pop teach him. I smiled and told him of course I would. But as we continued around the campground I let my mind wander to the place that always terrifies special needs parents….the future.
As he gets older, he has definitely started to see how he envisions his future going. He now talks about driving, at what age it’s okay to have a girlfriend, and that he wants to live in the city with a house that has a basement when he grows up. This weekend he also told me that he might want to write stories to make money. He’s currently got an idea about a scary story where all the Halloween blow-ups at Tannehill come to life. Honestly, I think that one has potential; I’d like to read it someday.
Of course when I allow my mind to drift to his future, I’m so afraid it will be vastly different than the one he pictures. He talks sometimes about getting married and having two kids. He wants a boy named Tim and a girl names Juliess. I swear when he talks about them sometimes, it’s almost like I can see them. But a large part of me knows how few people with autism are able to marry and live on their own. He has the biggest, most loving heart of any kid I know and I can’t help but wonder…..is there someone out there for him? Someone who will love him and help him navigate this world?
Collier also envisions himself working and living independently (specifically in that house with a basement). But I know that most researchers say that only 15 percent of adults with autism have full-time employment. It breaks my heart to think of all of the adults with autism whose talents and skills are being missed out on. Will my son fall into that category? Will he continue to have to live with us his whole life? Will he be deemed unemployable simply because of his autistic traits?
Everything we do is to prepare him to live on his own. We are teaching life skills like laundry, cleaning and cooking to help make him as independent as possible. Don’t let him know…. but Santa is going to be putting “Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Jr” under the tree this year so he can start learning good financial skills. I’ve even started talking to him about directions when we’re in the car, in preparation to teach driving skills in a few years.
But part of me knows trying to teach all of these things still doesn’t mean independence will come. And for me that’s fine. I’m okay with him living with us forever (especially if he can do the laundry and cut grass J ). What I don’t think I will be able to stand is if he is not happy. I want his version of his future. Not so that he can be “successful” to society, but so that he can be successful to himself.
I know the odds are small that the future he sees for himself will come true, but then again how many of our lives turned out the way we saw them when we were twelve? I for one am not an astronaut. I refuse to even get on that G-Force Accelerator at the Space and Rocket Center. But I will continue to do whatever I can to help my son achieve his dreams for adulthood…and on that note we’re going this Thursday to find an awesome journal for him to write down his story ideas in.