I’m working on some posts about autism and teens. There are several situations and experiences that are typical in the teenage years. While these experiences are typical, the reaction and the way they have to be handled are drastically different when dealing with someone with autism. This is not to say that the experience or the reaction is bad , just approached differently.
When you are training a captain (remember that series?), you eventually have to hand over responsibility for some important things, like advocacy. We have advocated for Logan his entire life. I have been known to remark to people working with Logan that I can be their friend after I am done being Logan’s advocate. It is important that Logan trust me to vocalize his needs when he can’t or won’t for whatever reason. Being his advocate is the most stressful job that I have as his mom. You have to firm but polite. You have to know what your child needs even when he is unable to vocalize or process those needs to you. It is now time for us to hand this responsibility over to Logan.
It is still our goal that Logan will be able to live independently from us at some point in his adult life. This may only be achievable with supports in place but that is a different post altogether. What we do realize is that this will not be achievable unless he learns to self advocate. He has to learn to effectively speak for himself. What we have to do is teach it to him while he is safely enclosed in the confines of your house. He has to start to feel comfortable doing it on a regular basis. This happens by handing it over in small increments.
One way we have transferred some of this responsibility is in the area of his food allergies. We have started to make him be responsible for making sure he can eat when we are at other people’s house or at a restaurant. Recently a situation came up at church that was perfect for practicing this exact skill. At the last minute, the new youth pastor who is not completely familiar with Logan ordered pizza. This meant that Logan would have to watch everyone eat since he is gluten free. I got him out of youth early to avoid that scenario but gently suggested that he email the youth pastor to take care of any future situations. Logan is in the beginning stages of self advocacy. I have to self talk the steps out loud so he can see the appropriate path to take in certain situations.
Logan did not email the youth pastor. He saw him the following Sunday and had a conversation with him about it. While it was not exactly what I suggested, he did take care of it. What manner he uses to take care of it is irrelevant here. The fact that he took care of it appropriately is all that matters. I need to keep that in mind as well when I set up ways for him to learn this all important skill. Yes, it’s a lot of work to hand over responsibility. Yes, he will fail at it sometimes. But I would rather he fail now when I can help him learn from it than to fail later when the consequences could be more severe. In the end , all I care about is that he learned it and was able to effectively take care of his needs. Isn’t that what we want for all our children, autism or not?