Helping my autistic daughter enter the the adult worldBy Lisa Jones
As 2021 wraps up, we asked members of community to share milestones and accomplishments they had in 2021 that they are thankful for. These big and small wins show the diversity of experiences on the spectrum. This guest blog is from Lisa Jones. Lisa is the mother of two from Boston. She was an early intervention teacher assistant for 14 years. Currently, she spends her time being an advocate for her daughter Allyson who is 22 and autistic.
The year 2021 has been filled with challenges, especially as COVID -19 continues to leave its impact. With all that, there still have also been great accomplishments. My son, Noah, the youngest, has been able to live on campus full-time at college while my daughter Allyson has turned 22, completed her transition program, and entered the adult world. Even with all the planning we have done in preparation for this day, it is still unnerving as parents having her in the adult world.
Allyson is learning to adjust and adapt to this new chapter in her life, but I find as her mother that I am learning along with her as we take this journey together. For me, this has become a new experience, one that is much different than the one I had when she was in the school system; there are more choices given and more decisions that have to be made, and the pressure of knowing what choices we make as her parents especially her mother since I am the one at home working with her and helping to set up these programs to help her navigate this road in the adult world. I want to make the best choices. I don’t want to steer her in the wrong direction whatever decisions I make she will have to live with the consequence.
This year we have started working with our agency of choice to find a suitable person who will work best with Allyson a few days a week, teaching her some life skills which entail using money and going out into the community, and learning safe ways to interact with others out in the community.
COVID-19 has caused delays in her training and preparation for a job, but we have learned to adapt and work around those delays and proceed with our plans. This year Allyson has learned how to better manage her anxiety with all the changes in her life. Even with the anxiety, she experiences she can rise to the challenge. She can show excitement for her brother’s accomplishments at college even while missing him and trying to adapt to living at home without him there.
Allyson has learned that even though he is away, she can still reach out to him through texting or the occasional FaceTime. Her brother has been amazing; as busy as college life is for him, he shows his support by responding to her texts which reassures and calms her anxiety down; it shows her he has not disappeared even though he is away.
I have to say the biggest accomplishment and milestone this year was Allyson receiving her High School diploma. We were told she would never receive a high school diploma, but to our pleasant surprise, because of COVID-19, the regulations for getting a high school diploma were altered this year and making Allyson eligible to receive hers.
As parents of an autistic child, words can not express the range of emotions felt when they told us she would get her diploma; even though we knew Allyson would not fully grasp the huge accomplishment this is, but we knew, and that was enough for us.
This year, I have learned so much from my amazing daughter by looking at the world through her eyes. I have learned how to work through my own anxiety that I have experienced from COVID-19. I too, get frustrated and overwhelmed at times, but like her, I persevere and work through it even when challenges arise. Giving up is not an option; you can still find good in people even in these trying times. We are so thankful for all the services, especially the agency we use. They have gone over and above to ensure Allyson is on the road to success.
This year, we have discovered the importance of close friends and especially family and the vital part they play in ours and Allyson’s life; they have continued to be Allyson’s cheerleaders supporting and encouraging her from the sidelines showering her with endless love. For us, it is so reassuring to know these close friends and especially our family are always there to provide us with a source of strength, love, and encouragement. As this year comes to a close and we look at entering the new year 2022, We hope next year will be filled with good health, hope, and success in our new endeavors.