I'm that mother--the one that shopped tirelessly for green shoes. My son loved everything green. There were green curtains hanging in his bedroom, green carpet and bedding, L.L.Bean green parka and boots...yes, you've got the idea now. Even when he hit the top of the size limit for kid shoes, I was willing to spend a small fortune on the few green shoes to be had in adult sizes. You could say that I pursued green tirelessly. And truly, what was the harm?
As it turns out, trying to always make the world a green place for my son with ASD was great in the short term. But just like an endless summer, it ends with an abrupt bump. I didn't have the power to continue doing many things for him when he turned 18. If you have a child on the spectrum and they are not conserved, you know what I'm talking about. If your child is over 18, you no longer can march into an office and say, "I'd like extra time for him to take his exam. You're on board with that, right?" Or, "Please send me over the results of his tests from his physical." No matter how impassioned I was, I suddenly hit a wall. Wouldn't it be great if I could handle his future interviews like this: "Brian is an incredible young man. He's punctual, ethical, and caring." The interviewer's eyebrows hit her hairline. I continue, "I personally guarantee he'll be your next employee of the month, and I'm coming along with him on the job, starting tomorrow, to make sure that happens!" Yeah, I know. But in my heart of hearts, I'm still sort of thinking like this. #godzillamom, #moremomthanonekiddeserves
I'm well-intentioned and loving, but I realize that my time is up. I'm not empowered as I once was as the parent, and he needs another mentor to be the best he can be. Sort of like that scene in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, when Anakin walks away with Jedi Qui-Gon to learn to be a Jedi. His mother says, "Don't look back." Very tearful. What a great scene! But finding support for your young adult as they start their own adventure doesn't have to be over-the-top dramatic. It simply needs to be the right fit.
The right fit isn't always easy. You get that--you've been working on solutions for years. Many parents with young adults with ASD or other learning disabilities are opting for schools that provide specialized training along with independent living skills (ILS). It's a utopian dream everyone loves. We took this journey, and sadly, it did not work. I found that changes in a school's administration mean changes in how a school handles the student population, their curriculum, and their level of support. You sign up for a year, and typically, pay in advance. If things are not working for those enrolled, there is little one can do except switch schools at the end of the year.
Instead, you may want to consider what we did. A program that is built around your child--one that is individualized, but also works with young adults in groups. Think about what your child needs in order to independently work, live, learn, and play in the community. What is their goal? Even better: what is their dream? You might think that college or work might be very challenging goals for your child to reach, and you might be right. Except--there is StarPointe. With their support and my son's persistence, he got back into community college and recently found permanent work with the local city government. He lives with another young man in their own apartment, and they both receive guidance from StarPointe on paying bills, filing work orders, and all the myriad number of details required to live on your own.
StarPointe has an incredible coaching program. I'm convinced it is the best place for my son to gain the support he needs to enhance the many talents that he already owns. And not just him--any young adult having trouble launching into the community will find the essential respect and help they deserve to move into a new phase of their life. StarPointe listened. Then, they worked on a plan. And as the plan progresses, they are flexible and make changes as my son's goals change. They not only provide the safe space for learning, but are there as a friend, as a mentor, and as a guide for him. In this nurturing circle of coaches, there is fun, laughter, hugs, friendship, understanding, empathy, and the footings for a new social network of peer helping peer. This is exactly what young adults need to ditch isolation, build trust, and find their own source of community. Within this circle of coaches, they find acceptance and the space to grow.