When I was an adult, my mother shared a story about me when I was four years old. I was the youngest of three girls and one day while my mom was swinging me in the park, I told her to stop pushing me. I said, “I can do it by myself.” My mother said she stopped pushing and when she backed away from the swing she began to cry. She said to herself, my baby is growing up and she does not need me anymore. She said it was one of the saddest days of her life.
I never understood how she felt until recently when my thirty-nine-year-old son, Brandon did something very similar. Keep in mind that Brandon has been living on his own for the past fifteen years.
When I called Brandon a couple of weeks ago he answered the phone and said, “What do you want?” in a rude tone of voice. After I answered him no matter what I said, his new response went something like this, “Yeah, yeah, yeah”, and he would repeat it. He has been doing that for over a week now.
At first, I felt offended and a wave of sadness rushed over me. Then I realized that Brandon was trying to tell me he needed more space. But instead, because he has great difficulty with words and expressing himself this was the best he could do.
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. My son who I have spent almost forty years trying to teach him how to become more independent was now showing me that all these years spent were finally paying off. I have to give Brandon credit because it took a lot of courage for him to speak out even if he was unable to execute it in a kind way. I know that we all have to start somewhere.
Once again, I am asked to “let go” and this time even more so. The “letting go” process is never easy, but it is required of all of us if and when we want our children to become more independent.
Brandon was just trying to become more independent much like the story I shared with you about my mother pushing me on the swing at the beginning of this post. Yes, I was four then and Brandon is now thirty-nine and quite honestly it really does not matter how long it takes to become independent as long as our children are headed in the right direction growing and developing one step at a time.
I discovered that independence is like a dance. But more recently, I discovered independence has many different dances. As a parent you need to know what tune is playing. Is it a slow waltz, a quick step, or the funky chicken? Knowing the correct tune makes a huge difference since it helps you to know when to step in and when to step out.
I realized I was dancing to the wrong tune, an old tune. At that time, I knew if I backed up and gave Brandon space he would come around. Several days later we were able to begin to talk about when he needs me and when he does not. We are now in the midst of talking about it more and finding out what it is he really wants and does not want. I can see that this too will be a process much like everything else.
The reason I felt it was very important to write about this story is because sometimes we do not think our children or adults with autism are changing or growing, but as you can see with Brandon his growth and development continues on. Even when we do not see any changes for a long period of time we cannot give up. We must continue to teach in a kind way and step in and out to the tune that is playing at that particular time. Our special needs children and adults certainly keep us on our toes and as they continue to grow and change we must too.