This is how independence began for my son, Brandon almost fourteen years ago.
I found Brandon a small bachelor apartment in a safe neighborhood. At first, we rode the busses together for several weeks until he could find his way. We walked around his new neighborhood until he felt comfortable enough to do it on his own. He had a job coach at his new job to help him with any difficulties he might face.
I am extremely happy for my son’s success, but I wish more adults with autism could reach their maximum independence. When I go out to speak I find that most parents are stuck in fear. Most of them are unable to allow their children to advance to the next level, because it scares them to death. I understand, as it was extremely difficult for me to let my son go and grow, but I had to let him try.
Brandon’s life is certainly far from perfect and he has many hurdles to get over each and everyday, but he does get over them. He likes living alone, because when he lived with other people he was treated very badly.
Once Brandon’s seizures are under control he will return to work. In the meantime, he has created his own job, which is helping people who sell items from their carts on the mall. He assists them by watching their carts when they take breaks and he gets them food when needed. He likes doing it.
Although his life is very different than I ever expected I accept my son for who he is and my rules for him are simple. If he is not hurting anyone, and he is not getting hurt, or he is not ill, I stay out of his personal business. He is thirty-eight years old and we talk over the phone often almost every day and when he needs me he reaches out. I see him every other week. We get his chores done that he cannot do on foot and we have a meal together. It is beautiful to watch my son continue to grow and develop.
I do what I can to help Brandon, but I am also very careful to not step on his toes. It is like a dance. I have learned when to step in and when to step out. This way, it encourages him to grow and do things for himself. I have found that having firsthand experience is one of the best ways to learn.
I have a new non-profit called, Autism Independence Project. I am in the fund-raising stage to film a documentary about Brandon showing how he has made his life work for him. I feel it is extremely important that parents see an adult who has many limitations and is still able to make it out in the “real world”. I believe it will give them the courage they need to allow their child to go and grow. To learn more about the project giving an insightful peek inside Brandon’s life and the Secret World documentary, visit http://www.autismindependenceproject.org.