A Bump in the Road
I've heard it said before that aging out of free and appropriate public education is a lot like getting an initial diagnosis of autism all over again. When your son or daughter with autism leaves the protection of the school system, there's an abyss before you. And yes, it's a very similar feeling to when you received the first professional evaluation that officially says "something is wrong." There’s a lot of hand wringing and desperate need to take action without knowing what action to take. It feels almost as if someone has dumped a bucket of ice water over your head. (But definitely not in the celebratory, “We just became World Champions and we’re going to Disney World!” sort of way.)
As if facing life for Cameron after high school hasn’t been stressful enough, I’ve recently had a fresh bucket of ice water dumped on me. Cameron’s instructor from this summer’s driver education course recommended he participate in a driver readiness screening before we schedule any behind-the-wheel lessons. Based on his behavior in the classroom, she had concerns about Cameron’s ability to handle everything he would need to process while driving. I had been giving Cameron driving lessons in a parking lot, and while I knew it would be a long process to get him to a competent driving level, I had no doubts that he would eventually get there. Realizing that the instructor had only known Cameron for a very short time, and that the classroom setting is very different from being behind the wheel, I felt confident that the screening process would be a mere formality. Boy was I wrong! When I sat down with the instructor for her review of the screening, I had emotions bubbling up that brought back the distinct 14-year-old memory of being told the amount of supports Cameron needed in an academic setting, and that the short bus would be coming for him to take him to special needs Pre-K.
There’s nothing quite like having someone tell you your son isn’t capable of doing something you’re convinced he can do.
I received a six-page report as a result of the screening assessment. There were several areas of skill that were assessed, and the report contained many occurrences of phrases such as: “Cameron has poor skills in this area,” “Cameron was not able to …,” and “Cameron became anxious …” By the end of the review session, the instructor asked me if I felt Cameron was safe as a pedestrian crossing the street without assistance (!). Cameron and I left the meeting and I doubted nearly every instinct I had ever had when it comes to his upbringing. Were my visions regarding Cameron’s capabilities and reality truly that far apart? How will this effect Cameron’s self-confidence? Has this led him to doubt his abilities as well? The most proud I have ever seen Cameron was when he passed his learner’s permit exam. I think we both convinced ourselves that the written exam would be the most difficult step in his obtaining a license. Now we’re faced with the very real possibility that Cameron may never drive.
Not to worry. I haven’t lost all hope. But that dousing of ice water certainly has my attention.