By Dan Coulter
Drew, our 25 year old son with Asperger Syndrome, is moving out. It’s such a major event in our lives; it triggers a cascade of thoughts and memories.
Kids grow up, become adults and move out. But not always, and not always in that order. Sometimes adult children need to move out to complete the growing up process.
That’s a particular issue with children who have Asperger Syndrome. Even if you’re trying hard to prepare them to be independent, it’s hard to stop doing things for grown children living at home that they need to do for themselves. Particularly when it seems some things won’t get done unless mom or dad steps in.
So, even if children are not ready to move out, at what point are they ready enough? At what point will living on their own engage mental gears that get them to take on responsibilities that their minds identify as “mom and dad stuff” as long as they live at home?
It can seem like a Catch-22 situation. We think they can’t move out until they’re managing their own lives, but they won’t have an incentive to manage their own lives until they move out.
Will Drew’s launch be successful?
My wife, Julie, and I, think it will.
Drew’s doing a lot for himself now, and moving out can be the incentive to have him pick up the rest. Plus, he’ll be moving just a 10 minute car ride away. A lot closer than when he went to college a 10 hour drive from where we lived. In college, Drew learned to get his assignments, finish his homework and get to class on time without his parents. He made friends and managed a bank account and took road trips. And he got his bachelor’s degree in four years.
We’ve learned that Drew does a great job at the things he’s interested in and excited about. And he’s excited about moving out. He’s taken to singing a line from a Billy Joel song, “If that’s movin’ up, then I’m MOVIN’ OUT!”
The process has been going well.
Drew’s realtor has a son with autism, and she’s been great. We met her a while back when her son was in one of the videos we produce. She and Drew looked at condos and narrowed the selection. Then, Julie and I looked at the most likely candidates and offered our counsel. While we influenced Drew, the final choice was his. We’ve been doing all we can to give Drew the information and advice he needs to make decisions, and then let him make them. We’re making sure he knows the consequences of different courses of action and we’re reviewing all the documents before he signs them. We’re sitting in on key meetings, and took the lead in the price negotiations.
Yes, we’re helping Drew financially, but he will be the sole owner of his condo, letting him take advantage of the government’s current “first home buyer” tax credit. Running the numbers, he’ll actually have lower monthly payments than he would as a renter.
He’s making his own calls to set up his utilities, Internet access and other services.
The condo he chose is modestly priced, but in a nice residential area. While Drew has a car, the condo is on a city bus line. If he decides to get a roommate to help with expenses, the roommate won’t have to have a car. That’s just an option at this point. Drew acknowledges he’d have to search to find a compatible roommate.
We’re also gifting him the installation of cork floors. Taking out the carpet will help with Drew’s allergies, and putting in cork flooring will help minimize the sound that travels from his second floor unit to the condo below. Being considerate of neighbors is always a good thing.
Right now, we’re having daily meetings with Drew to discuss each of our calendars and to-do lists. We’re hoping making to-do lists and keeping a calendar will become habits for Drew, although they seem to be hard habits for him to get into. We’re talking about continuing our meetings after Drew moves out, perhaps weekly, as a safety net to help ensure he remembers to do things like manage his finances and do home maintenance. He’ll be using automatic transfers to and from his checking account for some deposits and payments, but even then, he’ll need to check his statements to make sure they’re accurate.
There is a bit of the silent, “I told you so,” building in my head. Not that I want to say those words to Drew, but I look forward to having him learn on his own the value of initiating the things we’re now reminding him to do. Sort of like grandparents looking forward to having their children tell them they now appreciate what it takes to raise a child.
And yes, no matter how much you’ve prepared your child to move out, you can look back and wish you’d done more. But in those moments, it’s easy to forget all the other things you were dealing with that also demanded your attention. Few of us can devote all our time to preparing our children to be independent. So, we do our best, and launch them knowing they have to learn some of the ropes on their own.
We’ll see Drew more often than once a week. In addition to his part-time job working at the public library, he’ll continue to work part-time for Coulter Video, our video production business. Since completing his second college degree, (a two-year degree in accounting) he’s been looking for a full-time accounting job. It’s a difficult task in this economy, but he did find an unpaid accounting internship to gain experience, and he’s doing some accounting work for Coulter Video.
He’ll continue to work with his job coach in the TEACCH organization and our state vocational rehabilitation department to seek the Holy Grail of a full-time job with benefits.
For the employment DVD we’re now completing, we interviewed a number of people with Asperger Syndrome who are working full-time. They’re highly productive, valued employees. Several are living on their own.
Moving out is a big step for Drew. When it’s complete, we’ll all focus on the next step of full-time employment. We know others are doing it. We know he’s capable. We know how proud we are of all he’s accomplished. With persistence and support, it’s just a matter of time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR -- Dan Coulter is the producer of the DVD “Asperger Syndrome at Work,” which is scheduled for release in October, 2009. You can find more articles on his website: coultervideo.com.Copyright 2009 Dan Coulter All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.