I am a very fortunate mom. If you’ve read any of my previous columns, you will fully understand why I say this. While Cameron faces many challenges, he has mastered some skills which will be crucial for his independence. I’d venture to guess that these skills put him ahead of many 17-year-olds, regardless of learning profile.
The text messages I now receive from Cameron are an indication of the skills I am so proud of. The week prior to the high school autumn dance, Cameron realized he had a conflict. He sees a personal trainer at the gym once a week, and Cameron realized the dance fell on training day and he would not have time to see the trainer and make it to the dance on time. Cameron sent me a text asking for permission to cancel his session. Cameron’s memory is much better than his mom’s because he actually remembered to tell the trainer about the schedule change, but made sure I hadn’t already taken care of it for him. (I’ve learned that instructing Cameron to let a person know of a schedule change and then going around him and doing it myself—as a backup—is not appreciated by Cameron.) I think in addition to realizing my memory challenges, Cameron has also figured out that I am a visual learner, as he’s now sending texts when we are running low on critical groceries. And if the visual cue doesn’t work, he’s now taken to going to the store and picking up the necessary item. (For which I reimburse him, of course.)
Cameron’s ability to think through his weekly schedule, and what might impact it, may in fact be due to his need for routine. But the way he handles changes to the schedule is impressive to me. He’s not so focused on what usually happens that he loses sight of what’s going to happen. He has learned to problem-solve. Now, I would venture a guess that he likes the fact that I’m there for him to confirm what his next steps should be, but he is getting the hang of determining those next steps. And while problem-solving skills are certainly ones I’ve always aspired for Cameron to possess, I’m not exactly sure how he learned those. Perhaps it was survival instincts coming from living with a forgetful mom. Whatever he did, I did, or we did to hone those problem-solving skills, I’m glad it happened. I can take these examples of skill attainment, and make an informed decision about what needs to come next in his transition to adulthood.
It’s important to keep Cameron’s strengths in mind as I begin to contemplate life after high school. Certainly postsecondary programs are not one-size-fits-all. Programs that are heavily focused on independent living skills probably aren’t the best fit for Cameron. But a program that provides intensive academic support in a typical college setting isn’t going to be the answer either. Regardless of how much support is offered, I don’t think Cameron will be able to access curriculum content of a mainstream college course. Given what seemingly won’t be a good fit, what are the remaining options? I have a feeling that the solution to this conundrum will be just like Cameron: entirely unique.