Lauren Swick Jordan is prolific Freelance Writer, Blogger, and a regular Contributing Writer for The Washington Post, The Mighty, and The Organization for Autism Research. Additionally, Lauren is a mother of two sons, one of whom is diagnosed with autism.
TJ is my oldest son. He is 16. He has autism.
I remember when he was first diagnosed with autism, when he was 2. “Don’t think too far into the future”, all his teachers used to say to me. “Let’s just deal with what’s on our plate right now.”
Back then, that meant getting him ready for school. Strengthening his core so he could sit in circle time. Music therapy and body brushing to help him with his sensory issues so he could tolerate a room full of other kids, and the noise they make. Practicing his communicating with other people so he could participate in classroom lessons. You know, those sort of things.
We all worked really hard. And we were really successful. TJ has been thriving.
We have been thrilled with his teachers and schools, and with his progress, since he was diagnosed with autism over 14 years ago.
And now, what used to feel so far away is suddenly right here, in our reach.
Now it’s time to start preparing for the next phase of TJ’s life. College. Whatever that looks like. Maybe he will live at home…maybe he will live on campus. Where ever that may be.
Now we are on the edge of a whole new world of unknowns, as we prepare TJ for the wide world that lies at his fingertips.
Have we done enough to prepare him? I can’t answer that, as our work is never done. TJ is still gaining his independence baby step by baby step. Bit by bit.
14 years ago, our goals for TJ were to successfully separate from us for the duration of a school day. To cope with his separation successfully while also being able to learn. Together, we all did it.
But what now? TJ is only 16, and he still doesn’t know what he wants to do for the rest of his life.
Have we prepared him enough to be able to go out in the world and chase his dreams?
We don’t have those answers. Not yet. But I know that we will someday, TJ has grown into such a confident young man, skilled in communicating, and always improving on his communication skills.
I hope we have helped him build a strong enough foundation that he can go out into the world, head held high, and find his place.
To chase his dreams.
That would really be our dream come true.