In my last blog, I shared how my son John, who has autism, wrote and illustrated his own book, Adventures in Handom. This children’s sci-fi book came from my not-yet-7-year-old son playing and wrestling with his hands because of his autism. He used his imaginative scenarios spun with his hands to create a whole world called Handom.
Here I am, one year later. John has navigated the choppy waters of his senior year in high school, filling out scholarship applications, his first internship at an embroidery shop,
and maintaining a 3.0 grade point average and running cross country and track – Wow!!!
I love my son but we are too close and sometimes this is a recipe for disaster. Parents, and especially parents of special needs kids, will understand: You feel like you are always correcting, picking, and repeating yourself again and again, until you can’t stand the noise of your own voice. When you have a lot to juggle, sometimes it tips in your favor and sometimes it falls over.
Adding high school track and field to his mix has been wonderful. It helps with John’s anxiety and stress and is a good outlet of exercise for him. I recommend getting your kid into sports, any sports; it was life changing for us. He also has made some great friends and ended up winning one of three leadership awards given. This is not for being one of the top runners but for putting his whole heart into it. At the last race, with several kids running alongside him and cheering him on, he got his best time, which was a five-minute drop from the beginning of the season. He also went on to receive a scholarship from Merrimack Valley Striders for his essay detailing what running means to him.
We have “run” – no pun intended – into a new set of roadblocks. The minute John turned 18, all of sudden, whether he was ready or capable, he was legally able to fend for himself. This is for services, doctors, school – pretty much everything.
There have been so many new items put in place to help but, still, what with bank accounts, college, and jobs, etc., I don’t always know what to do. These are tough and heartbreaking decisions when these kids show how smart, creative, and capable they are, but does not change the fact that he or she needs extra supports, services, and accommodations.
No matter what type of diagnosis our kids may have, they tend to play the same game of denial. I have heard horror stories of children who are blind, who were refused services because, “he might grow out of it;” or children who are nonverbal refused an aide at school. We have been down this road ourselves and are struggling with it now.
I understand some people out there know how to use the system to their advantage, but many don’t. As parents and caregivers, we need to educate ourselves on what is available and what steps we need to complete to insure our kids will be safe, cared for and happy. This is not “one size fits all.”
When our family started off on this journey, we never dreamed John sharing his struggles, his achievements and this book would change not only our lives but so many other lives. It’s hard enough to be a typical teenager, but to have autism and be a teenager and to have accomplished so much so young is amazing.
So many kids and adults with autism and other types of disorders and disabilities are stepping forward to be advocates, artists, businesspeople and more. I believe that because there is more information there are more people realizing the potential of these kids and adults. We all know people who are probably undiagnosed and have found their way in the world. Now, so many organizations’ sole purpose is to aid individuals with disabilities to find jobs, social groups, sports, music, art, etc. Thank goodness for this. Individuals with disabilities don’t want a handout; they want to have fulfilling, loving, creative lives but might just need a little help to get there.
Have a good and kind heart and see what you can accomplish. When you have support and love, incredible things can happen.
Stay tuned, for our next exciting chapter. A hint: John started college this fall to focus on working with children and another book is coming soon.
By: Lauren Miller
Contact the Millers at email@example.com
To order John's book and one-of-a-kind prints, see the Adventures in Handom Website.