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What’s Next :: My Daughter with Autism is Graduating from High School

I thought once my daughter was finished with high school, my life would somehow magically change. I have friends with graduating seniors, and while they’re navigating the job world, receiving acceptance letters to colleges, and driving, I’m sitting here trying to teach my daughter how to grocery shop within a budget, how to use a debit card, and how to distinguish friend from foe.

My daughter is graduating high school and she has autism.

There’s something that school doesn’t teach our kids: LIFE SKILLS. Schools are so focused on test scores, and I believe they’re lacking in teaching our children the fundamentals. My daughter is considered high functioning, so she was in general education with students far more advanced. She had an IEP, but in all reality, there’s only so much one teacher with over 20 kids in a class can do. As a parent, I don’t mind filling in the gaps, but I do wish more schools offered alternative learning for children not college-bound. Having special skills and specific training would greatly benefit them after high school.

Technically my daughter is an adult, so now what? I don’t want to take power of attorney over her, because I believe that eventually she’ll be able to make her own decisions. But for right now, I don’t know what to do next. She didn’t "grow out of it" like some hinted she would. Yes, she’s able to navigate life better, but I think that’s more learned responses based off of different situations she’s been in over the years. She’s learned to adapt. But she’s stubborn and autism makes it hard for her to be poised and have self-control. She acts on impulse, regardless of the consequences. She’s not a self-starter and lacks motivation. She gets fixated on something and it’s hard to change her mind.

teenager with autism

She has a complex personality, so where does she fit in this world?

I thought I would find relief in knowing that we, and I do mean we, graduated high school; but my anxiety is still high. I worry about her fitting in, finding meaningful relationships, people taking advantage of her, and her peers and bosses being unkind because she has autism and is not part of the majority.

I won’t live forever; what happens when I’m gone?

I love this city and the special needs community is loving and tight-knit, but I also find it hard to locate certain services and activities that my daughter would enjoy. There are a few places that hire people with special needs, but good luck with finding an opening.

Not only do I feel the pressure of being her mom, I feel the pressure of other people's expectations for her. I know they mean well, but I can’t continue to have the conversation of why not college? Why am I putting limits on her? Why don’t I investigate special programs offered out of the city? Why don’t I, why don’t I, why don’t I…? It’s sad to think that the people that know me feel like I haven’t exhausted all possibilities when it comes to setting my daughter with autism up for the future. It makes me angry; I get sad all over again and it’s not only frustrating, but it’s also draining.

I’m tired and she just turned 18.

I can honestly say I don’t know what her future looks like, but I do know I will do everything in my power to nurture her talents and help her establish a life that is suited to her. I know the road is long with plenty of twists and turns, and I’m so very proud of all she’s accomplished so far. She is graduating high school with autism. It’s been hard, extremely hard.

I’ve had her back this far, and I don’t plan on changing that anytime soon.

autism posts graphic

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