We had Nat’s ISP meeting today, which is basically an IEP for adults. Although there are fewer requirements for the service providers to fulfill for their clients, Nat’s service provider and also his dayhab/day program staff seem more than eager to outline comprehensive goals for him. Clearly charmed by his intense work ethic as well as his sudden smile and the occasional surprising flash of violet-blue Bambi eyes, his entire team wants to watch Nat soar.
Everything I heard pre-22 told me that Autism Adulthood would be the dregs of the universe, but it has been the opposite for Nat. Yes, it is true that Nat has Priority One funding (because of occasional intense episodes of frustration that can become self-injurious) and so he has enough support in his life. He is lucky in that way, lucky in the way that would otherwise be considered unlucky, for this means that he also has an IQ that measures pretty low. (Although that reality is not shameful, it is nevertheless an acrid, poison-tasting reality that IQ is tallied in a way that is completely anti-autistic in nature. If you don’t see the forest, nor the trees, nor the bark, but instead you are listening to the quietest of animals there, you will presumably have a tough time choosing which thing doesn’t belong. I hate the IQ as much as Theory of Mind. Anti-autistic biases.)
Yes it is true that we live in Massachusetts, the land of choices, open-mindedness, and opportunities. And yes, Nat has a couple of championship fighters in his corner. Ned and I have been through Rocky Balboa-like training, punching everything in sight instead of sides of beef to get what Nat needed.
But, the other side of the equation is that the service providers are indeed out there. Today, I experienced the beautiful reality of that. I walked in, and there was Nat, sitting straight as a rod in neat pink button down and khakis, at an oval table with our DDS liaison, the house manager and direct care staffer we love, the day programs director, and the dayhab coordinator. I sat around that table listening to reports of Nat. S, the program director, talked about how “we haven’t had any concerns, for the first time with one of our workers… he really understands — Nat, you really are very good in the parking lot, with the cars backing up.” (Something like that.)
All discussion included Nat. Although there were times that we lapsed into “he,” we all quickly remembered that Nat was sitting right there. Everytime we remembered and spoke directly to him, he would not only turn towards the speaker, he would strain towards him/her, to really understand what was being said. His brows creased and his eyes focused sharply on the words, and he would answer. Oh, yes, he would answer. So the DDS liaison directed her questions at him, and though she filled in or prompted him a little too much (because she doesn’t know how to structure questions for him to get his original language and genuine response), he conversed with her in his way:
“What do you do when you go recycling, Nat?”
“Take to the dump. Bottles.”
“What do you wear in the parking lot at the supermarket?”
“And Nat, when you are not working, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, what do you do?”
“Meals on Wheels, recycling… play some basketball, walk the track.”
We also learned about Nat’s homelife a bit, and how he does out in the community with his roommates. Apparently he helps herd them when they are not paying attention! The lovely thing also was that Nat’s staffer always gave Nat the best possible interpretation: “He shows a lot of concern for his roommates. When we had the fire drill he was very good with them, trying to get them to go out.” No one said things like, “He really needs everyone to follow the routine, it can be a problem.”
We set goals having to do with improving communication via the iPad — typing and (well-monitored) Facebook and YouTube. Also, he still needs work on safety skills although we all felt that he does know all about looking for cars when crossing. Still, he doesn’t know about the asshole that goes through the red light when he has a walk sign.
I told them that my goal was for him one day to use his earnings to pay for more job coaching. Everyone agreed that that would be great, although it is hard to keep a competitive job like his in this economy. But if anyone can, it will be Nat. It will be Nat.