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Looking Into the Future

How do I answer the questions about a future with autism?

It seemed like a simple question. What was I expecting for Peter in his educational future? I find I sometimes give short answers to questions like that.

“The future is difficult to guess, especially with Peter.” The short answer is usually enough, although once those words are out there I get that quickened heartbeat--that worried feeling, I push aside when I think far ahead.

A mom I know is an educator and we have known each other for years because of our daughters, so I gave her the long answer. I told her questions like that make me really nervous. Then I gave her my whole thought process. I get nervous for all my kids’ futures, but Peter’s is more unclear than the others.

When I think about the future for Peter I have so many questions and then I remind myself if I tried to predict Peter at the beginning of middle school I would have been very wrong.

She didn’t know Peter when he was little, so I told her—he had no language. He barely had sentences when he started Kindergarten. His preschool teacher was not sure he would ever have a handwriting anyone could read, except Peter.

When I took those quick looks to the future back then I wondered if he would ever communicate. I wondered if he would learn to read, do math, function at all in this crazy world.

Now he is the one fixing iPads for his teachers. I can read his mini-essays without struggling and so can most people. He is talking to me about how he feels about weather, middle school and more. He is doing math to figure out how old I was when certain television programs were first aired. I would have never guessed any of that, so I try not to guess too far ahead.

I work with Peter for the best of all worlds—college, marriage, kids and at the same time I prepare for the most complicated—he may always need a support system. When I look ahead I always look back first to remind myself how far he has come and remind myself that I cannot come close to making an accurate guess.

When I look ahead I often think of Peter in the sprinkler as a preschooler. It has become a metaphor for how to look at Peter’s future. In early July, he stayed on the perimeter and just watched the girls play in the water. He would go near the sprinkler and stare at it when it was off.

One day, we lowered the water to his ankles and he gave it a try. We slowly inched the water up day after day. By late August, he was putting his face in the water just like his sisters.

That is how we look toward the future, one little thing at a time. Middle school, here we come.

Patrice E. Athanasidy September 09, 2012 at 01:26 PM
I am so touched by everyone's comments. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and sending us your encouragement. It means a great deal.
leslie pierson September 09, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Being a mother has always been the best part of my life - and it hasn't changed from when my kids were young to now when they are on there own. Nothing else comes close and the author know this better than anyone. Thanks for sharing your stories about your family with us.
sayitsnotsojack September 09, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Too bad all that hard and loving work will be ruined by the middle school.
Margaret Nadramia September 09, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Projection has always been a problem for me. I always have to remind myself to stay in the moment. In the moment is where the answer is. In the moment anything is possible.
Patrice E. Athanasidy September 29, 2012 at 11:55 PM
Thank you all for the support. Unfortunately, the column will no longer be running. If you would like to keep following these stories, please visit http://patriceitsthelittlethings.wordpress.com and feel free to spread the word.

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