This July, my daughter accomplished something that the average “person on the street” doesn’t typically associate with autism. She graduated high school, on time and with high honors. Add to that, she will be attending a Top 5 university, which also consistently ranks internationally as a Top 10.
Hold on a sec… Ok, let’s be real. That was clearly braggadocios, and not even a fully clad paragraph. My bad.
True, this mom is proud, but don’t all of us brag about our kids in one form or another from time to time? You bet! *wink* After all, they didn’t drive themselves to soccer or dance for years on end, did they? When our children reach a pinnacle, we have a right to enjoy the moment.
However, what I am truly getting at isn’t being conceited, but is, rather, something key to my work with those who have kids on the Autism Spectrum. It is to firmly believe your child can and will exceed any and all expectations set before them, and work like crazy to help them burst through barriers and make it happen. Each child’s successes will vary, and that is a beautiful thing.
In our home, the Summer Solstice just passed, yet the days are fleeting by. Soon, the warm summer air will shift to the scent of auburn leaves, finding my husband and me empty nesters. In our case, we’re talking college, but in yours it may be your son or daughter may be moving to a Group Home or another independent living situation. (Psst…we’ll be talking more about the empty nest this fall. Stay tuned!)So, how can we make the most of this brief time before our child moves on to this next phase of life?
If you are anything like me, you have a list of things you still want to accomplish as a parent, and nothing brings them front and center like a date circled on the calendar indicating your child is completing the transition from “childhood” to “adulthood”. (Pass the tissues!) There are many things I wish we had done, but choosing to live a life without regrets, my family is moving forward, tackling what rises to the top. This list includes things such as life skills, creating memories and lazy days. And we’re going to make the most of it. We’re going to make it special.
Here are some things we’ll be working on, reviewing and enjoying this summer:
If your child will be living independently, which includes dorm life, be sure to go over any items you feel she needs to succeed and make sure she can adequately do them. These include basics, such as:
- MEALS – Use of a microwave as well as microwave safety, food storage safety including when to toss food out, keeping the kitchen and dining area clean (and why…), understanding balanced eating (vegetables, fruits, etc).
- MONEY MATTERS – How to make deposits and withdrawals, paying bills and paying them on time, balancing a checking account, cash vs credit, keeping cash on hand and in a safe place, loaning money (or not) to friends, etc.
- SAFETY – Being aware of her surroundings especially at place such as an ATM, using an oven, using knives for food prep, keeping the door and windows locked, walking in groups as opposed to walking alone (especially at night), first-aid, etc. **NOTE** If your daughter or son is having a hard time with something such as an oven or using knives, find a work around. For instance, buying sliced or grated cheese instead of cutting it, or using a plastic bagel knife for cutting vegetables. Better she use an alternative than risk injury.
There are tons of things we want to do as a family, but for one reason or another, we never seem to get around to most of them. Recently, we sat down as a family and talked about some things we want to do before move-in day and made a good old fashioned list. Items ranged from game time (no cost!) to mini golf (low cost option nearby) to overnight trips that fit within our budget. Having this down in black and white means we’re more apt to check those items off. Being “list people”, this method is what works to keep us accountable, making sure that we spend this last summer as a family on a high note.
Want more ideas? Try these:
- Check your local parks for any activities you can do as a family. Beyond trails, you may find paddle boats, mini golf, Frisbee golf, swimming, camping, organized activities and more! Much of this should be low cost if not free.
- Pick a new series to watch on the tele. Instead of being glued to the TV set all summer, why not choose just one series the family can get into, and save that for TV time. It’s a free (or low cost if you use Netflix) way to spend some down time together.
- Family game night. (Free!)
- Talking a walk together after dinner, once the day begins to cool down.
- Indulge one or more of your Aspie’s Special Interests. This could range from anything from watching a movie, having her enlighten you about the marvel of Marvel, taking him to a train museum, etc.
- Making a meal together, with each person responsible for at least one item.
- Go through old photo albums and scrapbooks together. Or that pile of memorabilia you still swear you will scrapbook someday (guilty!). Love it!
Like most teens, my daughter is looking for work over the summer. In between searching for a job and cleaning out her room before the big move, mom here is making sure she has down time. After all, this may be the last summer she can sleep in, watch TV for an afternoon, and take it easy. There is so much pressure on kids these days, especially those on track for college, now that high school is over, the kid deserves a break! Don’t be afraid to let your son or daughter have some “me time” this summer! She needs to rejuvenate and enjoy this last summer of being a “kid”.
How do you plan to spend your last summer with your child at home?
Julie Clark is the published author of “Asperger’s in Pink”, which you can buy here, and speaks professionally about Autism. She is also the creative force behind Julie Clark Art. Julie is happily married and has a beautiful daughter. She is currently working on her second novel.