I want to thank Erin for sharing her place in cyberspace with me today. She asked me to talk a little about our mildly autistic son after he graduated from high school.
Our son was identified with ADHD at age four through a military base, pre-school pilot program. We were stationed in the DC area at the time and he was sent through the most intensive medical and psychological testing I’ve ever seen. Tricare wouldn’t have covered hardly any of the costs but the program covered it all, thank goodness.
That diagnosis changed to mildly autistic with Asperger Syndrome when our son was 18. Raising a special child is a challenge ALL his life and it gets exponentially complicated once they reach the chronological age of 18. Technically, he’s an adult with all the rights of an adult. Unfortunately for our son, his maturity level was about three to five years behind.
I will say he took to driving very quickly and passed his test the first time. Although both Macho Marine and I have multiple degrees, they did not come with the patience to teach our children, so we hired specialists to teach him to drive. It saved the sanity of all involved.
We were fortunate to have had an excellent counselor who specialized in ADHD boys. He saw that our son’s strength and flexibility was perfect for wrestling and so he joined a wrestling club at age 11. By the time he entered high school, he had the skills to make the team and lettered every year. His junior and senior years he went to the state tournament and did well enough to be offered a college wrestling scholarship.
Moving several states away, dorm life and college didn’t work out for him and he was home before the end of the first semester…with failing grades. Gee, imagine, the professors expected him to do the homework—all of it—and turn it in. We quickly got him into the local community college and he lived at home where we could supervise the homework situation. That didn’t work out either. After numerous tries, we all agreed to abandon college.
In Tennessee, we are privileged to have one of only eight vocational rehabilitation centers in the USA specializing in students 18-25 who are higher-functioning yet still fall under the guidelines for VocRehab. Our son waited over a year after he was accepted into the self-paced program for a slot to open. In the meantime, he’d been hired as a construction helper so when he arrived for the construction program, he had a leg up on the others. It’s a residency program where they live in a dorm and attend classes all week but must earn privileges through good behavior. They are supervised 24/7 but treated as young adults.
When he graduated, the state VocRehab worked with him to find a job, but he found one on his own.
He now gets up every morning in time to drive to work and arrives early, works hard all day and comes home dirty and tired. Being construction, it’s on and off. He’s learned that filling the gas tank on his truck costs a lot and we’re working with him on making good decisions with his money. Since he’s technically self-employed, he has to save money for his taxes and the things he wants to buy, like a new laptop, the latest gaming station, etc.
He is now reimbursing us for his insurance which brings me to Tricare. As I said in the beginning, raising a special child is a challenge ALL his life. It had always been our hope that he would grow out of this…his maturity and age would merge…he would be able to become responsible for himself. That hasn’t happened, yet.
Last year, we went through the court process to become his legal guardians. This was the hardest decision Macho Marine and I ever had to make as parents. The older he got, the more necessary it became for us to legally bind him to us and to protect him and his future. Now, we are working through the process (aka paperwork) for Secondary Dependency where he’ll be changed from the Tricare Young Adult to a full dependent. That has to be completed by his 26th birthday.
Even though he is now a legal adult, working most of the time, his psychiatrist has warned us that it will be difficult for him to hold a job for any length of time because of his Asperger’s. Even though his boss is aware of his condition, co-workers aren’t and are sometimes less tolerant of his ways.
I still have to remind him of things that should have become habit years ago, such as brushing his teeth, putting on deodorant, taking his meds. Some days I get the “Mom, I’m not an eight-year-old,” but other days I get the “Oh” followed by a fast dash from the room.
Having a mildly autistic son has been a connecting point for me to many other romance writers. I am awed by the number of authors I meet who have an autistic child and most often it’s a boy. By the way, we never write about them but we are all still hoping for their Happily Ever After.
Another interesting thing I’ve discovered about romance authors is that most are happily married and have been for years and years. Macho Marine and I celebrated our 35th anniversary in December and one critique partner reached their 32nd and another hit 38th.
Speaking of my new profession, my debut romantic suspense, Explosive Combination, is now on sale. I was finally able to talk my publisher into 15% off Military Discount through the end of April.
NOTE: Explosive Combination is a romantic suspense written at the blaze/spicy level (3 out of 5 flames – that “grey” book is a 5)
For more information, check out my website at www.KaLynCooper.com