Just heard from a Facebook Friend that she is really bumming out over the Transition to Adulthood thing. Suddenly Post 22 is in the press; suddenly so many I know are thinking, “Uh, oh, what will happen when he/she grows up and school is over?
I have been there — I am there! And I don’t have the answer. All I can do is talk about what I’ve learned so far. The biggest, most important thing for any autism parent to think about with Autism Adulthood Planning is: Your Community! You go back in time, to the very people who helped you in the first place: other parents.
It is the other parents who will connect with you both emotionally and pragmatically. You and the other parents have similar children, and now it is time to figure out just how similar they are. The thing to do Pre-22 is to get really social really fast with the Autism Community and make a match with another family. Here are some of things I’ve learned in this process of Transition to 22 for Nat:
1) Attend workshops to learn about the programs and funding sources, but just as important: try to meet some people there. Get business cards printed, so you can give parents you like your contact info. Get their number and email. Start a file: Autism Parents I Like. Whatever.
2) Write up a brief list of what is important for your young adult, or what he/she says is important. I am thinking only of the first five years in terms of living goals. Don’t take on more than 5 years at a time. Think carefully about your adult child and imagine him at his happiest. Where is he? What is he doing? Who is he with? This is how your vision for his housing begins.
Write up your list with stuff like:
3) Once you have your list, you can copy it and hand it out to prospective “suitors” or roommates.
4) Follow up with the families you like, and have a potluck dinner to get to know each other better. Find out if you are compatible, and if your children are. Are they too bossy? Are you? This is important to acknowledge before you partner up.
It began with support groups. They saved you, right? They are the ones who always get it. They love your kid and you love theirs. It only stands to reason that when we all get older, they will be the ones we turn to again. Cultivate your peeps now!