Finding the right fit for your child with autism can go beyond school and therapy. It can mean redefining where home and community meet, intertwine and create spaces in which families can flourish. This decision is never easy, and is rarely talked about, but for many it is part of parenting.
My son was diagnosed with autism at the age of three-and-a-half. From that moment on there wasn’t a day in which I didn’t think about his adulthood and independence and what it might look like. As my toddler turned into a young boy whose autism didn’t seem to reverse or get less severe, those thoughts of the future began to consume me.
Sometimes my child’s type of autism seems to be forgotten in the challenge of daily activities, how his world becomes my world, and the entire household is dedicated to his needs. As my little boy started to become a young man with typical hormonal challenges, a toddler mind and severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, my life became increasingly difficult, frightening and lonely. This young man, who I now look up to and weigh 60 pounds less than, was an emotional mess and his safety, along with those around him, was compromised daily.
After four years of struggling with my son and two serious hospital stays for his mental health, I finally took off my “SuperMom” cape and threw out an SOS. I found myself a few years ahead of my plan to find a place for my child outside our home. It took me awhile to admit where we were. It’s an extremely helpless and vulnerable feeling to truly allow others to understand what is taking place in your family. For me, admitting that I had run out of gas to do this on my own was very hard.
The decision to move my child into a supportive home designed to meet his needs for emotional stability and independence was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. Tidal waves of emotion hit me every day, all day. At times I feel like a failure. Other times I feel like a warrior for going to battle, tirelessly day after day. Then I feel guilty for enjoying the time I now have to just be me. It’s complicated and never ending, this emotional cycle. There’s nothing linear about it, and too often, I feel them all at once.
The one thing I do know for sure is that the most important thing to me in the world is seeing my son happy. Now that he is in a setting that provides the constant structure and independence he deserves, I can support him positively and devote more time to being his number one advocate. And in that way, I am a better mom.
As the saying goes, “You’re only as happy as your saddest child.” I have found some inner peace knowing he is making his way toward his version of happiness in whatever capacity is true for him.