autism,  milestones,  teen years

Macaroni and Cheese. Ramen. Spaghettios. Repeat.

Mondays through Thursdays this summer, I’d come home at 12:20 pm to find an empty pot of Macaroni and Cheese, Ramen, or Spaghettios in the middle of the kitchen table, the bowl next to it encrusted in remnants of Parmesan cheese.

Parmesan cheese, of course, is a mandatory condiment for every lunch.

Besides the daily routine, J’s been part of a lot of other activities, including XC Captain’s practices and a 5K in Vergas, Minnesota with the boys on the team.

This summer’s insane schedule has required J to do things I don’t normally ask of him. Here’s an example of what just Mondays looked like (I wrote up a daily schedule for our moms to help everyone be where they needed to be, when they needed to be there when Steve and I were in Europe).

8:20 am: J has XC practice at the High School. It starts at 8:30 am, but it’s good to leave at 8:20.

8:30 am: W bikes over to the High School for XC practice. Her practice starts at 8:45. If it’s easier for you, she can ride with you at 8:20 to North and wait for her practice at 8:45.

9:20 am: Pick up J at the High School. If you drove W, then wait for her too. She will be done around 9:40 am. When J gets home after practice, make sure he changes his underwear/shorts (and  possibly shirt) into new workout clothes. He doesn’t have time to shower before weight training. He will also need to have a house key around his arm/wrist for weight training.  

10:00 am: Have Whitney feed Rudy.

10:20 am: Drive J to weight training. Drop off is at the same spot at the High School. His class starts at 10:30. His class is done at 12:00 pm and he will run home when he is done and let himself in with the key.

10:30 am: When you get back from dropping J off to weight training, have W walk Rudy.

11:30 am: Drive W to her XC camp near West Fargo. It’s by Costco and will take about 20-25 minutes to get there.

12:20 pm: Is about the time I usually get back after dropping W off to camp. J will be home and will have let himself in. He’s usually making lunch or finishing up lunch by the time I get back. This is also the time I usually eat lunch too.

1:05 pm: Leave our house to pick up W (She gets out of camp at 1:30 pm).

1:50 pm: Is about the time you get back from picking up W. She will have a small snack or lunch.

2:15 pm: Drive W to her dog job.

3:20 pm: Take J to visual therapy (it starts at 3:30).

5:15 pm: Leave to pick up W

J also attended church camp for a week in Nauvoo, Illinois

Once we hit noon, it wasn’t physically possible for me to be available for W and J at the same time. The only way to make it work was to have J run or walk home from the high school (where his weigh training class was held), use a key to open the door to let himself in, and make his own lunch. I know for most parents, their kids have probably been doing this since they were 12 years old. For most parents, their 16 year olds could drive themselves to wherever they needed to be. But that’s not how our house works. Having your 16 year old autistic son walk home on his own, let himself into the house on his own (mastering that lock and key despite his fine motor skill struggles) and locking the door again behind him, and making his own lunch (which sometimes requires handling boiling water and always requires remembering to turn off the stove), that’s a pretty darn big deal. And J totally rose to the occasion. In fact, he loved the responsibility and the trust we had in him. He’s shown a lot of independence this summer (including taking multiple bike rides around the neighbourhood on his own during the day). I feel like he’s made some big gains in emotional maturity this summer too. He’s more mentally checked in with the world around him. He’s asking more socially appropriate questions. It’s been amazing to see such growth in only a 3 month span.

Sno Cones at Tropical Snow
J takes his Sno Cones pretty seriously

School starts in 3 days and J doesn’t want to go back to school. I sat beside him on Friday on his bed and had a little “heart to heart” talk about it, assuming that with all of the fun activities he had this summer, he didn’t want to to all the academic work that comes with the school year.

But I was wrong.

“I don’t want the fire drills,” he said, stuffing a pillow against his face, on the verge of tears.

Those dang fire drills.

I don’t know if we’ll see those independence gains and maturity translate to the school year. I’m really hoping we do, in just three months he’s come a really long way.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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