What does a gap year look like in autism? What does a gap year look like in any situation? A gap year, in case you didn’t know, is a sabbatical before leaving for college. It has been widely talked about in recent months since the announcement by the White House that Malia Obama would be taking a gap year before heading off to Harvard in Fall 2017. Malia will spend the year pursuing other interests. We know what it looks like in a typical family but what does it look like in autismland?
Whenever your child reaches graduation which we all know happens at a different time for our kids with autism, you take a year off before deciding on a life plan for the child. In our case, Logan was able by the grace of God and homeschooling to graduate on time with his peers. During the school years, we spent so much time making sure that he had all the proper education as well as therapies needed to make his life manageable. A gap year will help us to decide what route to go for his future.
Malia Obama may take a year playing and traveling as most teenagers would be prone to do. When you have a child with autism doing a gap year or done with academics, you have to take a different approach. The child may or may not be able to live independently at that time or any time in the future. Since academics are no longer necessary, you have to come up with a plan. Unless having an adult child living in your basement playing video games for the rest of their lives is your idea of success, a road map of sorts is essential. Your child’s input is crucial to this scenario.
How do you formulate a plan? What are some questions to ask? How long of a road map do you need? I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers. We are just beginning to walk this road with Logan into adulthood. I can help people until the cows come home with ideas about childhood with autism. I can write posts about managing meltdowns, how to handle full moons, how to homeschool or how to deal with menstruation in girls with autism. All these things I’ve lived already or know something about. Walking into the great abyss of adulthood makes me want to crawl into the fetal position.
Questions To Ask During Your Gap Year
- Where are we beginning?
- What can we do successfully?
- What is our end goal? Independence? Semi assisted independence? Completely assisted living?
- Looking at what we can do successfully, what do we need to accomplish to get to our end goal?
- Why do we want to accomplish this?
- Are these goals realistic?
- What do we need to save for or get to implement our plan?
- What are the child’s interests?
- How can we parlay those interests into something that can be used to support the child?
These are just some of the many questions you must ask yourself and your child. Be realistic but dream a little too. Everyone needs hope in their lives to work towards. Break down the big picture into small, manageable, as well as measurable goals. A timeline will help to keep on track in addition to giving you motivation. Think outside the box here to come up with something the child will love as well as something that can be used to support them financially.
Chantal Sicile – Kara spoke at the National Autism Conference about helping her son reach his full potential despite his limitations. Now her son has some different more severe issues than Logan. This has not stopped her or him from coming up with a life plan and implementing it for him to live outside her home. They have come up with a way for him to live semi-independently with supports in place. What was so fascinating about their story was how they thought out of the box to find a way for him to make money to support himself using his natural strengths. Her book is chock full of phenomenal information. It’s a must-have for your gap year planning.
While you should take your time to come up with a plan, don’t be afraid to change it as necessary. It’s not a set in stone plan. If something isn’t working , please change it as necessary. Your goal during this year is to make a road map of sorts to help guide you and your child along this path called life.