Search "transition" in the box on the sidebar, and you will find a myriad of articles about how to help children move from one event to the next. In fact, I have regaled everyone with ideas and "how to's" when it comes to even supporting your child from one simple activity to another. These incremental changes and support systems work really well in a small contained environment known as childhood. But autistic children become autistic adults and noone, talks about how to transition into that phase. The level of support needed and the level of understanding required of society.
A person doesn't stop being autistic simply because they are no longer 21-years-old and they age out of k-12. The reality is that there is very little out there in the way of support and programs for autistic adults; be they extremely impaired or on the more higher functioning end of the spectrum. What I have found is that you have to figure it out as you go along. And, as with everything having to do with autism, what works for one autistic adult doesn't work for another.
Some can jump right into adulthood. Others need help navigating the entire adult world. Also don't think because your child is smart enough to go to college that that solves all the problems. Don't think you won't be needed to either help create a support program or continue to be their advocate. You will find any number of new tasks, supports and needs for a child in college. And yes I say child. While society deems 18-year-olds adults, most neurotypicals cannot move through this phase without issue, never mind a person on the spectrum. I remember one of the Deans at MrGS' college telling me that as far as academic he was heads and tails above most his age. "This generation is different," he told me. "They aren't ready." But academics was never one of Mr.GS' issues. It was everything else that overwhelmed him.
And no, I don't think transition issues have to do with delayed adolescence, be the person an aspergean or NT. Of course the pundits and know-it-alls like to chastise this generation of parents telling us we are too indulgent or helicopter parents. (Funny how those doing the finger waging also seem to be the only ones without children as well or ones with umpteen connections-nepotism does solve alot of problems in getting a leg up on the competition). In truth if you pay attention to what is expected of our children in today's world, you see that they are required to know and produce more than we ever did. More is required of them to get into college or even graduate high school. More is required of them to get a job after graduation than we ever had to deal with. I remember, you just simply applied and were given a job. You can't even do that at a fast-food restaurant anymore.
It's the post graduation transition reality that is settling into our household. It's not enough to get good grades, you need a 4.0 from a top school in order to even get an interview. If you don't have that, you won't even be interviewed for an internship where they simply want you to come in and work for nothing. Baring the ability to get an internship, and most employers like to see 2 or 3 internships during school, you need to create or design your own project. The idea is that you want to show employers that you may not have gotten top grades (a 3.4 isn't good enough) but that you are creative, hard working and inventive. Find a way to stand out from the crowd, they tell you. Meanwhile that crowd is growing exponentially day by day.
Problem is what do you do when you simply aren't someone who thinks that way? What do you do when you are someone who needs direction and needs to be taught what to do? What do you do when you really need an entry level job but they just don't exist? I had a conversation with an HR specialist and she simply told me that in this economy employers don't want to spend the money training people. (No matter how they juggle the numbers in Washington to tell you the job market is great and the economy is growing, they are full of crap.) Employers want people to hit the ground running. So no, there are no real entry level jobs. Those that advertise for an entry level job, for the most part require years of experience; look closely at the advertisements. This of course isn't an issue for simply aspergeans, this is a real generational issue.
So how do you help your child move into the next phase of their life? Everyone doesn't have that ability, whether they are autistic or NT to create their own work-a-day environment. Some people really are good at fixing something that already exists. They aren't good at coming up with new ideas. Everyone who gets a degree today is not Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Warren Buffet (of course they never got degrees, but their companies require top notch grades from top tier schools). What do you do when you are simply stuck? Graduate school is not the answer for everyone, and funny thing, some people, even with excellent grades and boards don't get into graduate school so easily either, no matter what they keep pontificating on television.
I am afraid that we are dealing with a lost generation in many ways. They can't move out of their parents home simply because they can't afford to. They can't get jobs in their field because the jobs are not being created and those jobs that exist are being closely guarded. So how do you keep your child's hope alive and their dreams of a real and fulfilled life? How do you tell them that it will get better and that eventually everything will work itself out? What do you do as a parent that is supportive and at the same time realistic? How do you channel your hard-working child's desires, and interests while keeping them motivated in a world where they see no future?
During our last visit to the psychiatrist, he tried to put a global view of these issues for Mr.GS. Telling him that he hears these stories all the time from all kinds of people. Trying to make Mr. GS feel better; that it's not about him as it is about the world we live in right now. Not sure it helped very much, but maybe when Mr.GS hears it from someone other than us, he will realize that he is not alone in this predicament.
In fact, I know that we are not the only family in this boat. When MrGS went to a job fair recently, there were thousands upon thousands of people looking for work. From new graduates to people that have been in the field for decades; experienced people willing to take any job up against the newly minted.... tell me whom would you choose to hire? Did going to the job fair help Mr. GS not feel so bad about his reality? I don't know. The whole thing was very overwhelming for him and it didn't end up being a very productive experience. That job fair reality though, depressed the heck out of the hubby. (Yes, hubby went with Mr.GS)
You know what is the funniest part about this entire situation, is that most of the employment applications ask if Mr.GS is a person with a disability and they specifically list autism as a supported disability. And yes we have him check the box. I know that employers get some kind of tax dispensation if they hire a "diverse" group. (We were kinda hoping it would be an incentive for them to interview him.) So far it hasn't helped. We could tell him not to check the box and see if he gets interviews, but then what happens when he goes to the interview and he talks to them about his aspergers. Will they consider this withholding information and brand him a liar? In truth, he needs to be upfront to employers about his issues.
As I always say, the boys are who they are always going to be who they are. They need to be accepted for their entire person, not changed, fixed or turned into someone they are not. And yes it is entirely noticeable that they have aspergers. Recently a dog-rescue organization came to us for a home study to see if we can adopt one of their charges. The person picked up on the boys' aspergers right away. You see, we don't notice the boys' differences, but I am certain employers would if this stranger did.
So here is my new transition quandary. How to help someone move forward
when there is no momentum, through no fault of their own. How do you keep them positive and stop them from sinking into a depression? How do you help them figure out a way to use their talents, but maybe not how they thought it would be done, especially when you have no idea what you are doing? By the way, I don't think anyone knows what they are doing today either. The career services people simply keep telling me to go to state agencies for help. (The psychologist says its a waste of time.) I keep telling career services he isn't loosing jobs because of his aspergers, he's simply not even getting interviews based upon his resume. (She said it was important to keep checking the disability box, by the way) I think career services is as much at a loss as we are.
Honestly I also think for the first time in our entire lives, we are not in this situation because of aspergers. We are in the same situation as everyone else. Of course, we do have to approach the job search a little differently for the boys than if they were typical young persons. We just haven't been able to figure out the answers yet. I think this is one of those times, that we need to deal with each day as it comes. Meanwhile, we need to formulate a long term plan with goals. Only in this situation we have no idea how to get from point A to point B. All the old ways, that we were brought up on, no longer apply. It's a really different world out there and one we are not so sure how to navigate.
I'll keep you updated as we figure it all out.