Starting anew in a new year
Soon it will be 2011 and a new round of resolutions are in order. I am optimistic for this new year - first time in a long time. Tom and Matt will once again be under the same roof as I. Just think of it - both parents working in the same time zone! Of course, I have a list of personal goals I have set for myself - one of them is to focus heavily on completing my book, and some goals I have set for Matt. I keep reminding myself I must consider Matt’s future in deciding what is next in my list of life lessons I need to teach him.
Ah yes, the elusive future. Does anyone actually ever figure out their future? Of course, I want all the usual things for my autistic son – more educational experience, spend more time just hangin with him, and teach him as many new things as possible. But all of these are vague and to be honest, pretty wimpy. What I want – make that need – is to make some concrete plans. It's time to narrow down just one goal to a very specific achievable goal. For this new year I want Matt to take a college art course.
An art course would have several bonuses. In addition to learning new art techniques, Matt would meet people, have a schedule, learn responsibility and engage his mind. I know I have discussed his fear of grades before, but if we sign him up to audit a class then grades will not be a factor. If the class is at the same campus where I teach, then transportation will not be an issue either. So . . . now I just need to talk Matt in to it.
I have been subtly nudging Matt toward taking classes for the past few years. His facial expression reveals this to be his least favorite topic. I can’t bribe him like I used to when he was young (a bag of peanut M&Ms just won’t cut it nowadays). I am thinking instead about using a technique over the next several months that I have not used in a long, long time. I’m going to discuss the wonders of meeting new people. For most of Matt’s life, meeting new people would have resulted in fear, putting on the breaks, or finding a place to hide. Matt is 25 years old next month and he doesn’t show fear anymore – just “disapproval”, he doesn’t put on the brakes – just gives me a dirty look, and he certainly doesn’t find a place to hide – though Iam sure he thinks about it. For the most part, Matt is old enough and advanced in his autism enough to actually want to be around a group, listen to light-hearted conversations, and he even tries very hard to fit in. Of course, he still stays on the periphery of a group, but over the past few years I have witnessed his desire to participate and know he can be coaxed in with friendly gestures and smiles. Matt's eagerness to participate in family events tells me it’s time to get him to participate in other types of life events. There are many events outside the home and family that Matt would enjoy - especially college plays and sports events. Matt finds these types of group settings most excellent. as for the college campus, he knows my campus well and knows many of the people already, and is comfortable enough to hang out alone while I am in class. So . . . a spring play, a few baseball games, maybe an art gallery exhibit, a lot of coaxing and maybe, just maybe, I can get Matt interested in taking that art class. The class is scheduled for next fall, which means I have approximately 8 months to convince him that classes could be fun.
Wish us luck – we may need just need it.