Yesterday, I ran into an acquaintance, whom I haven’t seen in a while. We exchanged polite conversation for a few moments and then her expression changed. Her voice became quiet and serious and she asked:
‘How’s your son?’
I immediately responded:
A look of surprise appeared on her face. Then a look of seriousness took over. She says:
‘No, really, how is he? Do you think he’ll go to college? Live on his own?’
So here’s the thing. There are people who hear the word ‘autism’ and think that it’s a death sentence. I’m not going to change this ignorance. I found her question to be just plain amusing.
Adam learned a new word in science last year: Hypothesis. He loves to ask anyone he encounters the meaning of the word. And before they can give him an answer, he excitedly responds:
‘It’s your best guess.’
For him, the question never gets old. For the rest of us, it’s a completely different story.
Another one of Adam’s favorite things to do is to make up silly words. Currently, Adam’s new favorite topic is Lacey’s thighs. He loves to talk about how big they are at the top and how ‘skinny’ they are at the bottom. He also loves to present her with the question:
Lacey, what’s your ‘thighpothesis’?
Stop it Adam’…(I’m always amazed by her endless amount of patience for him)
As always, he ignores her and responds:
‘It’s Adam’s ‘best guess’ on how to make them bigger’
And with that, he starts ticking different foods off his fingers that could possibly make her thighs bigger.
Odd? Yes. A bit creepy? Yep. Is he a typical annoying little brother? Absolutely.
The more that I think about it, Adam’s obsession with the word, hypothesis and it’s silly variants is a bit interesting. In the beginning, his doctors provided us with their ‘best guess’ of his future based on their past experiences with patients with autism. As parents, we base our decisions by putting forth our ‘best guess’ as to what will be right. We test our guess, and make adjustments accordingly. When we all get down to it, ALL of us make daily hypotheses. None of us know for sure what the future, for our kids, holds.
The fact is, Adam is doing great. We took a leap of faith and moved him to a general education classroom with an assistant 6 years ago. There were no guarantees. We acted purely on our gut instinct. Over the years, we tested, we’ve adjusted. Adam has grown away from his behavior plan, his reward system, his regularly scheduled breaks. Trips to the ‘cozy corner’ to read a book, draw pictures of Metra trains, and run an ‘errand’ for a teacher are a thing of the past. His wonderful assistant is stepping away more and more and watching him develop more independence both academically and socially. (I’m sorry, Mrs. H. that he continues to toss his P.E. uniform to you after class. We’ll keep working on that!) Adam is participating in class, looking to his peers for direction and asking for help. He participates in his middle school theater productions, both as a cast member and new this fall, as part of the tech crew. He is a member of the middle school concert choir. The ‘naysayers’ in Adam’s early years stressed to not get our hopes up. That he would be met with many challenges. I continue to try and wrap my brain around this message. I mean, who’s life isn’t met with challenges, diversity, heartbreak and victories? As Robin Roberts says, ‘Everybody’s got something’ .
My biggest concern with Adam is his ability to communicate. It is by far his biggest challenge. Communication is his ‘something’. Having a conversation with him can, at times, be next to impossible; unless, you are dying to know about every intricate detail of every Chicago Metra train, every stop on the Chicago Metra Train line. He can recite the stops on any of the 9+ lines, both forward and backward…without looking at the map. He would make an excellent tour guide if you ever want to take in the sites of The Windy City. We recently got him a cell phone in hope that it would spark more of an interest to communicate with family and friends. Currently, the only value that he sees in the phone is the ability to watch Metra Train videos on YouTube. For the moment…epic failure! In the end, all we can do, is continue to work on it, continue to present him with situations in which he has the chance to independently communicate. My hypothesis is that by practicing, his communication skills will get stronger.
So to answer the question that was presented to me yesterday. Yes, my hypothesis is…Adam will go to college, live on his own. This is what he talks about. This is what he wants. Will his experience look like that of his brother and sister? Maybe. Maybe Not. Quite frankly, planning that far ahead is just plain exhausting. More importantly, I need to get to the store and make my ‘best guess’ if dinner will be a hit tonight!
P.S. I’ll admit that I’m secretly glad that Adam is currently obsessed with making a ‘thighpothesis’ instead of a ‘buttpothesis’! Sorry Lacey!