As I sit and write, my hope is that you are inspired to keep dreaming for your child, keep working with your child and getting help where it is needed, because one day, your child who has autism will grow up to be an adult who has autism. Using the resources you have now will help your child be confident and be able to eventually live independently. (Whatever that may look like) Help them find their gifts and abilities they can use to be part of society.
My son who has autism is 25 years old. It has been a long and sometimes lonely road to get to where he is now. He struggled to listen and understand directions in school. He would get frustrated when asked to do things a certain way. He did not like his schedule to change and became very anxious in trying new things. Those are some of the struggles we have endured and still have difficulties to this day.
But now let me tell you some great things that have come through all of this. He wakes up each morning to make breakfast, take his vitamins, make his bed, get dressed and then he does exercises. He has a different schedule each day, I never thought he would like that. Some days he reads, draws, cleans his room, mows the lawn, does his own laundry, exercises with peers at a fitness gym, or works at a pizza restaurant. At work, he washes dishes, rolls silverware in napkins, and folds pizza boxes. He loves to be part of a community and working in a place that makes him feel his job is important.
From the very beginning I believed keeping him active, continuing education and
helping others would help him feel he was contributing to society. That is very important to a person like my son, he wants to succeed like anyone else.
When he graduated high school, we applied to the state of Missouri Vocational and Rehabilitation. They work with companies that do on the job training at job sites he was interested in. It worked for a while but eventually everything he was interested in did not pan out or was too far for us to transport him. Other programs that are great to check into are, The Whole Person and Summit Future Foundation. I know now that some of these places help with transportation.
My husband and I went to court when our son was 18 to get guardianship over him. We felt this was important so that if anything arises, we could make safe decisions for him. We also enrolled him in Social Security Insurance, so that if anything happened to us, this would be in place for him when he needs it. With this, he can only make a certain amount of income to continue to get benefits with SSI. So, therefore we thought it was best to keep his job at the pizza restaurant.
My son is verbal but can’t convey his thoughts and wishes. I felt it’s important to listen and try to understand what he likes like being with friends, playing sports and working. I learned a few years back he did not like camp anymore, so he does not go anymore. We enrolled him in Special Olympics when he was 8 years old. He is now involved in bowling, basketball, swimming, and softball. He loves going to practice, competing and being with friends. Special Olympics Missouri has begun a program called ALPS. It’s an athlete leadership program that provides training athletes who wish to expand their role in the program. They learn to achieve success, joy, and acceptance off the field.
They learn how they can make a difference in their communities. They have many different courses to choose from. My son is getting an associates degree in Health and Nutrition with photography as a second degree. He loves to go to college, take classes to learn how to manage health and meet people from all over Missouri.
This past winter, my son was a Special Olympic Polar Plunge Ambassador for the Kansas City area. He loved meeting all kinds of people in the area and helped raise money for the event. This was so big for him, he read a written speech that told why he likes Special Olympics in front of hundreds of people. I never thought he would be able to do this. He practiced his speech to help keep him on task and to help people understand. He volunteered to help set up cots, tables and chairs for the participants and then polar plunged himself! I could not have been more proud of this guy.
I believed in the hope that my son would become a happy, fulfilled person who continues to progress through a team of support, lead by his family, to be a part of an acceptable society. Doing all the hard tasks to enable my son to work and live in a community that brings him happiness. I believe my son is happy and content with his life. My son feels needed and loved by the people around him. That is my hope and dream as a parent with a son who has autism.
Sheila T. Parent & Teacher