No one wants their child, ever, to become a ward of the state. Aren't families supposed to take care of their own? Well, things don't always happen the way we think they will. You sometimes think you've done the right thing and it turns out-in a big way-that you didn't.
Do you have a child with autism? If so, have you thought - really thought about - that day when your child turns the magic age where adulthood legally begins where you live?
Maybe you aren't a parent. You could be a concerned friend. Or a grandparent. Or a grown sibling. We are in an epidemic of autism, and if you are reading this, you've been touched by it.
You don't need to tell me that you're in the middle of a war zone. You already know that. In the middle of the war, you may feel you only have the energy to think about today. And here I am, a stranger to you, asking you to take some time anyway. Because I've learned the importance of asking these questions the hard way. Learn from my mistakes.
You, the caregiver of this child, MUST ask yourself these questions:
Will my child be able to live on his/her own as an adult? (From here on in I will use "he" to mean "he or she".)
If not, will he have a place to live?
Will he be able to drive or use mass transit?
Will he be able to pay bills?
Will he be able to make decisions about his health? His finances?
Or will he need help? If so, how much help? Some guidance? Or someone doing all of the above for him?
Will he need a guardian? (In New York, where I live, it can be a lot easier to get guardianship for a minor, someone under 18, than if that person has already reached age 18). Will he need people in different legal roles to help him? If so, who are you depending on? And what do they think about you depending on them to do it? Are they OK with it? Will they respect your wishes?
Do you have other children you expect to step in and care for your adult child? If so, are they the right people? (Answer honesty. This is not a quiz and there is no one right or wrong answer.)
Perhaps your child is young, and you've just gotten the diagnosis. Please, put this on your calendar for a few years from now: "Time to Plan". Don't wait until your child is an adult to think about it. You know that saying "they grow up so fast?" Guess what.
They grow up so fast.
So who elected me to ask you these questions? Here are my qualifications: I am the sister in law of an adult with autism. He's in his 50's. His parents raised him without supports, and no one guided them to make the decisions they needed to make. So they never made them. Now, he may be paying the price. And we, his siblings and inlaws, have been left with planning his future because his ability to do so is impaired. (That isn't true for everyone wth autism, by the way. It's what is called a "spectrum" disorder, and every person with autism is an individual functioning at a level specific to them. This, though, is my brother in law's situation.)
We've been helping with this for a few years, and the need is now becoming urgent. I may blog about that more next week.
So, once again, I ask, if a child with autism depends on you:
Ask the hard questions. If you have already, bravo!
The people in your child's future thank you.