Tomorrow is Independence day, a time for many to celebrate their freedom. However, there is a member of our household who is seeking some additional freedom of his own.
Big Guy turned 18 last week.
This huge transition from minor to adult can be a tricky one for any adolescent, but I'm especially concerned about how this is going to affect my Aspie son. You see, Big Guy is experiencing the overwhelming desire for independence that most teens his age feel, but the harsh reality is that he still lacks many of the necessary skills to be on his own right now.
Part of the reason Big Guy is farther from this goal than we'd like him to be is his late diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome. Although we sensed that Big Guy's behavior was "different" from about the age of three years, we struggled for a long time to get the correct diagnosis. In second grade, he was labeled with ADD based on behavior observed during the course of an IQ test - but this diagnosis never seemed quite right. It just didn't encompass all of his symptoms.
By the beginning of high school, we'd scrapped the medication Big Guy had been taking for his "ADD" and I began to do some extensive research of my own. It soon became apparent that many of Big Guy's behaviors were consistent with Asperger's Syndrome. We met with several pediatric developmental specialists who agreed with my suspicions, and Big Guy finally received the official diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome just before his 17th birthday.
Although it was a huge relief to finally have the right diagnosis, I felt that we missed out on a crucial period of time - time we could have used to specifically address the issues many Aspie's face as they struggle to become independent. Big Guy is fully capable of living on his own at some point, but unfortunately, that time isn't quite here yet. However, we've come up with a plan to help him prepare for this eventuality.
We are extremely lucky that Big Guy enjoys academics and is planning to go to a local college while living at home. Starting this month, he will begin to pay us a SMALL amount of rent. This will hopefully help him become used to setting aside "living" money each month. Big Guy will also begin to do his own laundry. It may take a few lessons, but again, this is something that he is capable of doing. Big Guy is also going to be responsible for purchasing part of his food each month, as well as helping to prepare a meal once a week.
We feel like these changes are a great place to begin shaping the skills Big Guy will need to make it on his own, and they are definitely ones we can build on as these skills grow and develop. Our goal is to help Big Guy gain his dream of independence and find his own niche in this world.