Autism Transitions: Full Nest

Turning 23

I didn’t mean to wait a full year to post, but I think I am glad I did. For many families turning 22 means an empty nest, but not us. Much of this first year has been characterized by a sense of relief for him that not everything is changing at once. I share that relief, wholeheartedly. As we prepare for our other children to leave the nest, I am admittedly grateful to know that this man will linger. I understand that we can’t let contentment morph into denial. I also understand that even typical brains aren’t fully developed until age 26 and so extending the transition process beyond 22 means we still need to continually assess the whole person and the whole picture, giving equal weight to the futures of his siblings. Our family is evolving and nothing is truly settled. We are not ready for the long term plan, and if the transition has taught us anything, it’s that planning ahead is an art, not a science. There are few absolutes, and in this political climate we can’t even plan on even the most basic levels of support for our man beyond the family unit.

Not for the first time, it occurs to me that I’ve built my life around this family and any personal ambitions I may have had pale in comparison to what has turned into a life’s work: this person who now stands before me, nearly grown. While I try mightily to extricate myself from the lives of my other children, he fits so easily into who I am now that he is in so many ways an extension of me, and I know my husband feels the same way. We, the three of us, are a single symbiotic organism and even when it is maddening it is also plain that I cannot breathe without them. I don’t think it will always be this overwhelming, but it the feeling that we are thriving together instead struggling to understand and survive is shot through with a kind of success that is difficult to describe.

That said, one year into the transition we are dealing with only a few of the issues I thought we’d face, establishing social connections and opportunities being the most difficult challenge by far. There’s a bit of waiting for the other shoe to drop, for sure, but the best part is that he is controlling the dialogue. So long ago I prayed for him first to be able to say yes or no, then to tell me if he had a good day, then to outline his fears and desires. I got all of those things and more, even as he remains as vulnerable as a preschooler. I still bask in the miracle of him becoming so much more than I was told we could have hoped – but my hope never waned, and never will.

 

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