Mar 28, 2014 0 Share

Love and Marriage


Close-up of man putting ring on woman's finger.
Thinkstock

Cody has had an interest in the opposite sex for quite a long time now. But the other day Bill posed a question that made my heart skip a beat. He said, “What if Cody wanted to get in married someday?

While there have been many neurotypical young ladies that have clearly liked what they saw when they laid eyes on Cody for the first time, once they talked to him for a bit and encountered the language barriers and what they saw as odd behaviors, they realized he was very different from them and their attraction toward him dissolved pretty quickly. So it’s hard for me to imagine a neurotypical girl that would maintain a long-term romantic interest in him. However, there are many special needs couples who date and even marry. And we are seeing Cody develop a more serious interest in women.

There are several female clients at his day program toward whom he gravitates more so than others. And the signs are there to suggest that he may be developing a special fondness for one of them. So I can see how marriage could be among his aspirations, someday. But the plethora of factors that have to be considered seems almost overwhelming to me.

For starters, I still have to prompt Cody in a step-by-step fashion when he takes a shower, not to mention making medical, financial and other day-to-day decisions that are in his best interest. These young women I spoke of also need assistance in these matters. And given that Bill and I are as protective of Cody as we are, we would want to have a supervisory role in this venture. We would want them to live with us until we could be sure they would have proper support if they were to live on their own. But how would the girl’s parents or guardians feel about that?

A bigger question is how would this affect our guardianship of Cody? Would we then also assume guardianship of Cody’s wife as well? I tried to do some research on this question but all I have found thus far is how disability benefits can be penalized, how advanced directives need to be put in place right away and how cash gifts from families can have a derogatory effect on a couple’s disability income. So it looks like Bill and I will need to consult with our attorney to learn the answers.

Then there’s the subject of whether or not Cody and his would-be bride would have an interest in consummating their marriage. Bill and I have not discussed sex at great length with Cody. He hasn’t asked that many questions aside from what the animals on the National Geographic Channel were doing. Cody does have natural, biological urges the same way neurotypical males do, however. We have had to explain to him that certain things need to be done in private only. It’s not something others need to see, hear or know about. But what if the young lady Cody marries is more sexually sophisticated than he is? How do we go about explaining it to Cody and determining if he comprehends and is on board with it? While I believe it is the understanding of love—and not the understanding of sex—that determines a person’s readiness for marriage, in most cases they go hand in hand, so it’s still a subject that would have to be addressed. And with that comes the issue of birth control.

Then do we as parents of the groom, who have hypothetically assumed guardianship of both Cody and the girl he marries, also have the responsibility to make sure that all things are in order for both parties in the event of our death or does some of that responsibility still fall to this young lady’s family? Research is in order on the subject of Special Needs Trusts. And the list of considerations goes on and on.

There are those who may feel I’m putting the cart before the horse but I don’t think so. Caring for individuals with special needs whether autism, intellectual disability, or physical limitations requires a lot of thought and advanced planning. Seeing Cody’s interest in the opposite sex become more prominent means that it’s time for us to investigate the matters of love and marriage for special needs individuals now, so we can be prepared. We want to be responsible parents and guardians but we also want Cody to be happy as well.