I love having a mantra. Don't sweat the small stuff and it's all small stuff, I used alot when Jacob was a youngster. Everything is going to be alright. That is my favorite one right now; I even imagine Bob Marley singing it. But at times, this one is a bit harder to embrace in regards to Jacob's future even though by all accounts it's smooth sailing these days.
As a parent of a child with an autism spectrum disorder, I took a lot on faith while Jacob was growing up. That the expensive bi-weekly speech therapy was really worth it. That his classroom aide was truly dedicated in her job supporting him. That eventually, he would mature into a productive, happy, and independent young man. Now that he is 18, I can see that most of the time, his behavior shows that he greatly benefited all of his interventions. I can now see that he has the ability to successfully transition to adulthood and possibly do it well.
I know that I was extremely lucky to live in the community that I did when Jacob was growing up. The office of the doctor that first diagnosed him was located just a few blocks from my house. Our public elementary school had excellent services including an amazing occupational therapist who was employed by LAUSD. Jacob and I were part of several playgroups that became great social opportunities for both of us. There were beautiful parks and the beach was just a mile west down the hill from where we lived. I was also lucky because I co-owned a successful business with his father that I managed part-time from home. And because this, I had the time and money to focus on Jacob and what he needed. I was available to drive him to doctor and therapy appointments. I had time to coordinate information between his school and all of the professionals that were hired by me to support him. I could spend time developing his imaginative play by sitting on the floor and creating fun scenarios with his plastic toy animals and Thomas the Tank Engine trains.
It's sad to see that California is proposing such large budget cuts to social services because the Westside Regional Center was and continues to be a tremendous support for Jacob and me. We had the same case worker for almost ten years who was wonderful, and every case worker since has been a a great advocate for him.. WRC has funded so many wonderful experiences including summer camps, swimming lessons, social skills classes, even covering the fees for my RDI Consultant. I relied heavily on WRC, so when I hear about all of the funding cuts that are being proposed to the Department of Developmental Services, I wonder how much longer can the entire Regional Center system survive.
All of the wonderful supports for Jacob have paid off, and when you observe him today, he is doing great. He's a confident young man. He's getting good grades in school. He just completed his second Workability-sponsored retail job. He's even starting to venture out into the community with his peers, and this only started yesterday. It was the last day of 11th grade and he went out to lunch to Dennys with his friends from school. This was a huge step for him, and a huge surge of happiness for me.
But there is still a ways to go. Does he engage with my husband or me in conversations on topics outside his own interests? Rarely. Does he have an idea if he wants to go to college or what his career path might be? No idea at this point. I've told him that he can pursue anything after he graduates, and it doesn't matter if it's work or school. The only option not available is doing nothing all day. He says he understands, but, right now, he can't make a decision about what he'll be doing that far in the future. That's cool. He doesn't graduate for another year so I'll let him enjoy his carefree high school days while they last.
Now that Jacob is 18, he's legally an adult. He has the right to choose what he wants to do with his life even if I don't agree with what those choices might be. As long as he's living a moral, ethical, and law-abiding life, I have to back off and accept whatever Jacob decides. I have to remember that he is now a young man, and he deserves to be treated and respected as an adult.
So, do I really feel that everything is going to be alright? Yeah, I do. But does that mean I still worry that maybe everything is not going to be alright? Yeah, I do that too. I think as a parent, I'll always wonder if Jacob is happy, doing well in his job and pursuing his dreams, and I'll do this regardless of his challenges. I think about these things because I'm Jacob's Mom. And because I'm Jacob's Mom, I'm always going to hope that everything is going to be alright.