There are many things on Ooph that I have been proud of over the years, but nothing more than this project. Autism affects 1 in 110 children and 1 in 70 boys. These children will grow up. They will become teenagers. What programs are in place to help them on this journey?
Jessica of Four Plus an Angel and I are pairing up to address life with autistic teenagers. Our goal is two fold. The first is to create a buddy system in high school. As she said to me over the phone when we began to discuss this project, “Teenagers with autism go to school and they get assistance and get through their day. After school they have nothing. No social life. They don’t attend games or school functions.”
We are creating a project called Perfectly
imPaired. Our hope is that over the next several years, every school in the country will implement this program that will pair willing students with teens of autism. Compassionate teens that will become a big brother or sister to those autistic teenagers who deserve to be a part of the social aspects of life as a teen.
Our second goal is to address life after high school. Soon enough all of these children will become adults. What happens to them after graduation? We want to create programs that will allow these incredible children to grow into adults who are able to find work and function in our world.
These are lofty, yet attainable dreams. Will you help? We ask that you spread the word. You never know who will see your tweet or blog post and help us begin this process. If you yourself are willing to help, please email me at stefanie(at)ooph(dot)com. Together we can make this happen.
I subscribed to the “when she is older” philosophy to cope with my daughter’s autism diagnosis.
After she was diagnosed I told myself…
When she is older her speech will improve.
When she is older interacting with her peers will come more easily.
When she is older more people will understand autism spectrum disorders.
When she is older there will be more opportunities for adults with her diagnosis.
My daughter is 16 now, two years away from adulthood.
“Older” is here. I feel very fortunate to say many of the things I hoped for have happened. Ashlyn is an amazing, well-spoken, high school-attending teenager. She is loved by her peers and has far surpassed the outcome specialists gave us over 12 years ago.
But her future is full of uncertainty.
She will finish high school in two years. Continuing on in the public school system until her mid twenties is an option but will not bring her closer to a career. She won’t go to college. She won’t get a driver’s license and she won’t be able to live on her own without a significant amount of assistance (and a winning lottery ticket for her parents).
My daughter is just one of many teenagers with autism who will enter adulthood with very few opportunities before them. The social deficits of autism make interviewing for a job extremely difficult, maintaining one that much harder. Individuals on the autism spectrum are smart, some of above average intelligence and many with unique skills that could be an incredible asset to specific employers. (How many teenagers do you know who can memorize the bus routes for an entire school district?) It saddens me to think many will not end up in careers that challenge them or the opportunity to live independently of their parents.
As the days go by and we get closer and closer to the end of my daughter’s high school career, I find myself almost embarrassed to admit we have no plan.
But when the options are “not good” and “not good enough” creating the future my daughter deserves is an overwhelming task.