A word to the parent.
As parents, like in all things in life, we are no stuck in one place in time. The days, weeks, months and years are like a blur and seem to go faster and faster as we grow older.
I have noted that there tends to be a significant focus on the child, particularly the autistic child, and certainly that is a critical focus. However… childhood is short, very short and kids grow up quickly into adolescents and then live the majority of their lives as adults. I have personally experienced that not enough attention is paid to this group.
With a child, and even more so, with a child that has significant medical, behavioral, social, communicative and/or cognitive challenges, a parent can be utterly engaged, overwhelmed and drained attempting to get the best out of the resources that are available, and, thank goodness, we have some tremendous resources from a system that though flawed, sometimes badly, is overall generous, trained, adapting, and responsive. If you have lived in another country, especially a poorer country, you know what I am referring to here.
And after all that energy, the battles and victories and triumphs and disappointments, in some ways 18 years old is only the beginning of perhaps the most difficult part of that journey. Suddenly we have moved from speech therapy or adaptive PE, to questions about; career, independence, legal accountability, peer influence, driving, dating, sex, marriage, increased exposure to unprotected settings, rebellion, right to refuse an intervention, deteriorating health and the list goes on.
I remember a scene from the movie “Parenthood” with Steve Martin, must have been about 1990, but that part of the movie stuck with me.
Steve Martin played the good son and his brother was a mess, gambling, borrowing and ultimately in trouble with criminals and the aging dad keeps bailing him out over and over. Ultimately Steve’s character asks Dad, “When do you put an end to this already?”
Dad answers “You never stop being your child’s parent”. The comment stunned me, then a father to three young kids, and continues to resonate with me now that my children are in or near their 30’s. What was the saying “Little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems”.
Am I bringing this up to depress you dear reader? Not at all. This is also a time of some of the greatest joys as well, but the job continues and it has changed rather drastically. I think this part of the population we are serving needs and deserves a closer look.