Most parents of special needs children are concerned about their kids’ distant future. What about college? Will they be employable? What will they do for the long haul? Will they find someone to love? Will they have a family? Who will take care of them when I’m gone?
I, on the other hand, live day to day. I don’t worry about ten, twenty or thirty years from now. I’m so engrossed in the moment — basic survival — that I don’t project our lives into the future.
There are a few reasons for this.
The most primal one is that I have confidence in my 12-year-old son’s ability to succeed despite his disabilities — autism, ADHD and anxiety disorder. I guess I’m a bit of an optimist when it comes to Tommy. He’s come so far from an early childhood full of behavior problems, learning issues and basic unhappiness to an adolescence of appropriate behavior, success at school, popularity and contentment; I believe he’ll just keep making leaps and bounds into a fantastic future.
Another reason I don’t fret about the distant future is that I have a strong belief that God is guiding Tommy and our family, and that He’ll watch over us. God will provide. This might seem naïve, but it is sincere.
A third reason I can’t worry about the future is that I have health issues that tie me to the present moment. I’ve survived cancer twice, and I’ve lived with bipolar illness since 1991. Because of these health issues, life for me is just a day-to-day thing. I don’t have the luxury of perfectly healthy individuals who can concentrate on the long term vision. I have to stay focused, taking tiny steps into the future, again, in order to simply survive.
A fourth reason I don’t obsess is that Tommy is getting a great education. His teachers, intervention specialists and aids know what they’re doing. I am confident that they will help us bring him into his future in one piece.
There is one woman in particular I’d like to mention. Her name is Mrs. A., and she was Tommy’s intervention specialist for the last two years at Tommy’s intermediate school. In short, Mrs. A. got Tommy through a very difficult time. He’d loved elementary school (kindergarten through fourth grade), but when he entered fifth grade, his behavior issues increased. Mrs. A. was patient and gentle and always understanding.
One day she asked me if we changed Tommy’s meds because he seemed to have a shorter “fuse.” She was very astute because we had increased Tommy’s SSRI. (We’d put Tommy on an SSRI to help manage his anxiety.)
Her comment prompted me to contact Tommy’s prescribing doctor who ultimately took him off of the SSRI entirely because she determined that it was doing the opposite of what it was intended to do. It was making him more aggressive instead of less fearful.
After Tommy got off this medicine, his personality changed drastically. He became more peaceful, less agitated and happier.
If it hadn’t been for Mrs. A.’s comment, Tommy might still be in a bad way.
In short, Mrs. A. really made the difference. My husband and I will be indebted to her for life.
Finally, I don’t worry about what will be in the distant future because my partner handles this worrying for both of us.
Luckily, my husband is as healthy as a horse, so to speak, and he has the wherewithal to worry about the far, far away future. I guess we’re equally yoked. He’s been contributing to a college fund for Tommy since Tommy was an infant. He’s daily looking ahead and planning for the future. Recently, he’s been planning for our retirement. He’s the long term goal man, and I’m the short term. I focus on preparing meals, laundry, basic mothering, grocery shopping, setting appointments, making sure the household stays afloat.
In conclusion, I’m not a typical special needs parent. I’m not worried day and night about my child’s distant future.
There’s just enough in one day to worry about.