“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.” (Psalm 130:5)
Part of Natalie’s autism is a bit bizarre for the typical social-brained person to understand.
I got one of my first indications about Natalie’s atypical behavior when she was about two years old and we brought her new baby brother home from the hospital. She didn’t run to me like she missed me after I was gone for two days. She didn’t even notice that new baby Philip was in the house, not going near him or looking at him.
At the time, I was too engrossed in caring for the new baby to notice, but later on, this characteristic of her autism was quite apparent. Our sons can go away on a two-day or even a week’s youth retreat and Natalie won’t even notice that they are gone. She doesn’t seem to know when the family is coming or going.
We went out to Washington State on a family vacation two years ago while Natalie stayed home with her grandmother. She never once asked where we went or why we were gone for ten days.
Last week, with Dan away on a business trip, Natalie felt more freedom to follow me all over the house. She had a hard time separating from me, letting me do my work, or letting me go to bed. She wanted to hang on me and monopolize my time.
One evening before going to bed, as I went into the basement to feed the cats, Natalie followed me, which typically she doesn’t do. All of a sudden she asked, “What is that?” She was pointing out the bedroom that Philip had built in the basement one and a half years ago. I told Natalie that this was Philip’s bedroom. Natalie didn’t have a clue that this room existed and got real angry that I didn’t tell her. How did I know that she wasn’t aware that this room was in our house? I use the word bizarre, for that’s what it seemed like to me. How can a person live in a house and not go into the basement for over a year? How can she not know what’s going on in the house? Her usual trail is from the front door, to her chair in the living room, to the bathroom, and to her bedroom. She rarely goes into any other room or spends any time outdoors. She doesn’t go into the kitchen to get any food, whether she is hungry or not. She is so unaware of her surroundings and of what is going on.
At this point, we cannot see her living on her own and being able to thrive. I am slowly trying to integrate life skills into her days, but she resists them. If I mention that she needs to learn them because one day she will be living in her own home, she just gets angry that I would dare suggest that she will leave me one day. A similar emotion is that she gets upset when she thinks that I would die and leave her.
Regardless of her feelings, it is my responsibility to prepare her for adult life without mom around.If you are reading this and you have a teen or adult with autism or Asperger’s, you probably can relate to this anti-social behavior. If you are reading this and have a typical teen or adult, you probably cannot fathom having a adult child that lives in their own made-up fantasy world and is unaware of what is going on around them. You probably can’t imagine having to deal with an adult child who can’t function without a caretaker.
It’s a reality in my life and at most times a burden, but every once in a while, I am able to grasp the important role that God has given me. I am able to look beyond the hardship of my care taking responsibilities and look at what a privilege it is to be her mom and catch part of God’s vision for her life. This gives me the will and the hope to carry on, even though at times, I want to give up.