Tuesday’s with Autism – Back to School

We are t-minus two days away from school starting. I have decided that Aiden would think boarding school is a dream come true. He cannot WAIT to get out of our familial clutches into the arms of his public school. This is in large part in thanks to a great teacher and team, which, we all know, can make or break our all kids.

This year is the middle of middle school. We are “just” two years away from high school, but also WE ARE JUST TWO YEARS AWAY FROM HIGH SCHOOL!!!! Since we all survived our first year at “big school”, I have high hopes for this year (also probably because it’s August. By May, my spirit will probably be broken by the high hopes for summer. So it goes).

I realized that we are smack dab in the middle of his childhood via diagnosis. Instead of “he was diagnosed 8 years ago” I’m thinking more in terms of, “he has 8 years before he turns 22”. Time is funny if you consider hanging off a ledge while someone laughs and throws rocks at you “funny”.

So this year, I want to focus a lot on practical skills/life skills. What will he need when he’s an adult? Well, he will need to be able to walk up and order food, so I guess let’s work on walking through the lunch line alone. Bonus points for remembering your ID number to “pay” for your account. (Maybe send him with actual money? ehhh….Maybe next year?). When he’s an adult, he will need to know how to count money (probably? Are apps making that obsolete or less necessary? Should we look at budget instead. oh god. Must not panic). He will need to type but I still want to at least nail down a printed signature. Conversing with people. Tolerating chaos. Riding a city bus. Math on a calculator. Not muttering cuss words when people annoy you. Daily deodorant without us reminding him. Speaking up for himself. Slowing his roll on the meltdowns. Calming techniques. Raising his hand to answer a question. Really thinking about the answer rather than saying “yes” or “no” and walking away. Keeping a schedule. Spelling. Reading. Comprehension……you can see that one thought on growing up sort of snowballs. My self-soothing technique in this instance is knowing he has great “domestic skills”: laundry, simple things in a microwave, likes to help cook, enjoys doing his chores (usually), and is currently learning how to mow. So we have some tools slowly going into our toolbox. That’s good, right?

Those of you who have ASD or those with kids of teenagers/adults, what kind of skills do you think are important to learn as we get closer to adulthood? What sort of IEP goals did you have in place? Do you have any advice to pass on during this time of gentle transition? How much does technology influence your life and learning? Job advice? Basically, let’s hear it all: the good, bad, and ugly. Just like at the initial diagnosis, it’s time to rise up, take a big breath, and plan.

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