When a couple learns they have a baby on the way, they start to plan his life without even realizing it. They wonder, will he be a doctor or lawyer when he grows up. Or, they think, maybe he’ll be a novelist, a painter, or a great musician. They even think things like, he doesn’t have to be a great artist, he will be loved eve if he chooses to spend his life flipping burgers for a living. However, what they don’t think is what if he is disabled and can never leave home, will never have a job, and will never find the love from a wife and kids. This, unfortunately, is what often happens when an autistic child becomes an autistic adult.
On Monday, April 27th, my autistic son will turn 18 years old. He is so excited about his birthday/graduation party that is planned for this weekend even though it is so much different than others who are his age. He has no aspirations of attending college or looking for a career – because he isn’t able. His party is not centered on what he is going to do with his life after high school – because it will barely change from what it has been for the past few years. I have homeschooled him since second grade because of how badly he was treated in first grade, so he is accustomed to being at home all day. He has friends who are his age and a couple of years older due to having an older brother but those friends have a very different outlook than does he.
He recently told me that he wishes everyone would stop trying to find a cure for autism because there is nothing wrong with him. I agree. He is very bright and is a hard worker. However, he cannot take charge of a situation – he needs someone to help him through every step of a job. He was also born with club feet, and although they were corrected with surgery, he cannot do a job where he has to stand for hours at a time. At some point in his life, either during childbirth where the umbilical cord was caught around his neck or during one of his surgeries, he lost oxygen to his brain which caused apraxia. The apraxia affects his eyes, speech and fine motor skills. Therefore, most people have a difficult time trying to understand what he is saying. He used sign language until he was around nine years old but has since forgotten most of that.
My point is that, even though others may see his future as bleak, he sees his future as bright and challenging. He is a happy child/adult and looks forward to finding ways to function as a contributing adult. This is not the future that my husband and I dreamed of for him while he was still in the womb but it is his future and we couldn’t be more proud.