xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Yeah. Good Times.: Independence and worry

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Independence and worry

I'm a worrier; I worry. This is no secret to anybody who knows me well. I worry about my kids, I worry about my family, I worry about my friends. I lie awake nights thinking about all the people I love and the various issues they have and sometimes I wish so much that there was something I could do for them that I can't sleep. But all I can do, most of the time, is tell them that I love them and hope that they'll be okay.

With my kids, of course, it's a different story. I don't or can't just lie awake and hope for the best, I'm in charge of the things I worry about. Okay, there's nothing I can do about earthquakes, but for the most part I'm in charge. It's my responsibility to make sure they're prepared for what faces them and a lot of the time what I worry about is that I'm not doing a good enough job at that.

Lately I've been thinking (worrying) a lot about independence, in particular with Child 1. This is, of course, something all parents worry about for their children but for an autistic child the worry is much different. He's 11 now and ever since the Resource Specialist said the words "diploma track" at our last IEP meeting my mind has been consumed with "what happens when he gets older?" We're still struggling with basic hygiene right now, can I possibly imagine that one day he might live independently of me?

It has always been my instinct as a parent to not try to "micromanage" my kids' lives. I like to give them plenty of freedom to make their own decisions and find out for themselves what kind of people they are. Child 2 doesn't like sports, even though every single one of his friends does, so I'm not going to make him do sports. If he doesn't want to he doesn't have to; he'll find his own activities that he likes. But it's different with my autistic kid because his preferences are so limited. He doesn't just not want to do sports, he doesn't ever want to leave the house unless it's to go watch BART trains. He has no interest in making friends, he has no interest in any kind of group activity, he doesn't even have any interest in learning personal hygiene.

So, okay... so far I've been going along respecting his wishes because I'm not going to force him to do something he doesn't want to do, but now... the worry. What if I'm making a mistake? What if, by not insisting he, at least temporarily, leave his comfort zone to try new things, he'll never want to leave the house for any reason except to watch BART trains? Will he be an adult, living in my house and never leaving?

I read my friends' blog posts and Facebook updates, and I see all the therapies and social groups and activities that everybody's kids are doing, and my kid is doing none of those. And that's because he doesn't want to, but should that choice necessarily be his? When he was 3 he certainly didn't want to participate in our ABA-based home program, but he was 3 and nonverbal and I didn't give him a choice. As a result I'm 100% convinced that if it hadn't been for that program he wouldn't be the exceptionally smart, verbal, sweet child that he is today. He wouldn't have been able to make all of this progress without that program, the one I "forced" him into against his will.

So maybe now I'm just making a mistake. Maybe I need to insist that he participate more in the world, in order to prepare him for his future as an adult? Maybe by giving him too much personal freedom I'm actually doing him wrong??

I know it's so easy to say "you're doing the best you can and he'll find his own way" but... will he??? Nobody can predict the future, all we can do is prepare for it as best we can. I'm worried I'm not doing enough to prepare him for it.