I'm a parent of an autistic adult. My son, Nathaniel, was diagnosed around 3 years of age (he's now in his 30's), but as I look over some family movies (see March 30, 2011 post) I can see that he displayed many of the 10 signs of autism well before then.

His mother and I had only one thing in mind. What do we do?? In the early 80's there was little we could find about autism (no internet - what a lifesaver now!). We had his immediate needs to worry about. Was there a cure? Did he require medication? Childhood education had not yet come to mind. But with time, we needed to find out what resources were available around us.

Planning usually comes late for parents with autistic kids. We (well his mother and I) worried about his immediate needs and not the future. When Nathaniel reached 18, life as an adult posed many questions.

I hope that this can be a place where parents with autistic adults and children can communicate with those of us who have dealt with autistic adults. Yes, there are books and magazine articles about what to expect, and legal advice, but I have yet to find a place where experienced parents can share these experiences, give advice, and help parents of young children cope with the future of their child.

Sep 13, 2010

One of the most defining moments in our lives (my wife Shelley and me, Dave) was the realization that we could no longer put off plans for Nathaniel's adult life. Nathaniel is a tall but lovable kid who has been a runner throughout his life. This was one of the few ways he communicated with us - nothing like a good chase. The chasing stopped around age 13, but the roaming did not. So he would find ways to get out of the house and run wherever he pleased. We lived in the country so there was a lot of farmland around and very few neighbors, maybe 10 houses around an intersection. We couldn't watch him 24 hours a day, so we tried out best to find things that would interest him at home. But..

His roaming would take him in to houses uninvited.

You see, Nathaniel is "addicted" to coke.

As in Coca Cola! Even now, his greatest pleasure is to go to "Ronald" McDonald's at least once a day (but this is a story for another time). As a young adult he would invite himself in to our neighbors and check out the refrigerator. Our neighbor would say "Hi Nathaniel" as he passed through (they knew he didn't speak). In fact, he met neighbors we didn't know.

We had a fire hall nearby, a small place with a coke machine in front. Nathaniel didn't know it was there until we needed to use the post office in their basement. That's when the trouble began. Unbeknownst to us, he found some loose change and headed off to the fire hall. When we realized that he was gone, we went on a search.

It was dusk which made the search difficult. When I drove up to that intersection, I noticed a guy, more like a silhouette, on the porch swing across the road. The guy got up and then drew back his head to get the last few remaining drops of coke out of the can. This was cute until we realized that here is this big hulk of a guy on somebody's porch looking threatening to anyone in the house. As I said, we life in the country. Everyone has a shotgun.

This was our defining moment.


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