Adulting: Independence and Supports

Independence. The dream of many autistics. Yes, that is a goal for many as many still live with their family, some by choice, some because they need care that cannot otherwise not be provided without support. But what if you could get support, would you move out on your own. For a moment last year, I wondered if I needed support and this has caught my eye again as I seen a Facebook post of where additional supports are needed in this realm and the inability to keep a home.

After learning from my last independent experience and while I left not solely because of that, but because of the inability of repairs being made to the residence that otherwise made my mental recovery possible. I had to make the final decision to return back to my parents’ home for some time, but I had to put my best foot forward and think about what I needed to be successful in the community again. Now, we must understand that autism is a spectrum disorder and there are autistics that will either have no desire to be independent or will need round the clock care. However, supports are out there, if you can find them. I did my research and thought about it for some time. Yes, independence is a right if you choose, and for me I actually thrive better in independence. But it didn’t start early for me. For me, it took a lot of growing up real soon and quickly.

There is a plethora of horror stories out there about autistics becoming independent.  I feel for them, they want experience the dream that everyone experiences, although they may or may not have the supports that they need to be successful citizens in the community, there is no blanket solution that can be an end-all, catch-all to solve our solution. I am thankful that I have parents who will do anything and everything for me, oftentimes at the drop of a hat. But, I had to do some growing up to gain my independence, specifically in my cleaning skills, cooking/nutrition, medication, and some other things.

Yes, we as autistics can be regimented, but again that doesn’t lie in everyone. It takes time for us to build a routine and establish what we need to do, how to do it and be able to do it. We must be accepting of whatever challenges come our way and be flexible and “roll with the punches” as they come. This hasn’t always been easy for me, but as the years progress, it gets better. Yes, sometimes I get triggered by things that were traumatic in the past, but it has gotten better.

I never thought I would be doing so well independently. Now, this isn’t a gloat trip for me. From me being a person who was told as a teenager that I would be institutionalized and now being out of my last restricted environment for nearly 20 years, that too isn’t a fix all. It took a decade from the behaviors that I experienced before being placed there such as the aggression and abuse on my parents to stop completely for a decade. But, when I had to move in with my parents last year and nearly in crisis, we have recently made the determination that co-habitation with them is difficult.

Our personalities clash a lot. It’s nothing against them, friends of theirs think they are great people (and I am too!) but my personality style and the way I see things is the polar opposite of how I see them. When moving into my current arrangement, it took time for me to realize that I need to set my own expectations, something they don’t teach in the independence realm. Yes, expectations are a unique norm, but like decorating, I had to learn where I set the bar on expectations. What helped me was by doing a host of research on the web and understanding what is acceptable in living situations other than the ones I experienced and the one that my parents live in.

In many areas of the developed world, the plan to transition autistics come as early as middle school years. I did not have this luxury. I did have the opportunity to have a close relationship with my local transition coordinator. However, when I was graduating High School, my parents didn’t have the tools that parents are provided today. Maybe that’s why I waited so long to be independent. Some skills I learned from my parents, some from school, I did take a host of home economics classes, along with other modalities in education, some I learned through my day program, although it took until a few years ago to be serious about it and other things. But I personally feel at this current moment that I can take care of my home and make it a great place to live. Now, that may change as the family characteristics in my family change over time., but overall, I wouldn’t have any issues with keeping my home at this very point. That may or may not include the need for supports down the road, but I know they are there.

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