Autism and the In-Between Parenting
What is the In-Between Parenting?
It’s a term I made up for the following situation.
I have an eighteen-year-old with autism. He’s about to graduate high school and attend a local community college in the fall.
We do not have a conservatorship with him.
What is a conservatorship?
It is a legal proceeding where an adult is appointed by a judge to be the conservator of another adult. The conservator manages the affairs of the adult who is deemed unable to independently manage their own affairs or take care of themselves.
Why don’t we have a conservatorship for our son with autism?
We have never felt we needed one.
Our son has mild autism. We always felt he was a little behind typical kids his age, but he is intelligent would eventually catch up to his peers.
My husband and I felt he would one day be able to live on his own.
We would always be there to assist him, but after a few years we felt he’d someday be a fully functioning adult. His ability to catch up was for real.
Plus, he wants to live on his own someday.
That is his desire, his choice.
Therefore, no need for a conservatorship.
So, why the need for a term, In-Between Parenting?
This is the term I use for my new situation.
My child is now eighteen.
We don’t have him under a conservatorship.
So, in a lot of places, he has to (legally) be treated like an adult.
The doctor’s office.
Lately, he’s been to see his dentist, primary care physician, and an allergist.
In all three offices, I had to inform them that my son is now eighteen.
That changes things for them because now he has to give them permission to talk to me about anything medically-related to him.
It’s really not much of a big deal because he signed whatever he had to sign and I’ve talked to his hygienist and allergist. He still lives with us and the conversations still make sense.
But, wow, is that new.
Not used it yet, but I’ll get there.
Now, this one appears to be tougher.
Which I understand… but I don’t understand.
For his entire educational existence, my son has had an IEP. That IEP carries over to his new school. My son has been accepted into the new college and into the disability arm of the counseling department.
No problem there, right?
Well, not only do they need his permission for me to even be involved, but my son needs to give permission EVERY TIME.
Okay, one time, I get it. Even have him sign something.
But, why every time?
They tried to explain to me that if I had a conservatorship but….
But, I don’t. Because he doesn’t need one.
In other words, I have a son with a processing delay and executive functioning issues.
I do help to manage his school life. Remind him to study. Remind him to get assignments in. We even talk about some of his assignments and tests. I’ve studied with him.
I’ve completed the college aide form with him.
Additionally, I’ve made sure the IEP and transcripts get to the school.
I do all of this because I want to make sure he meets deadlines. He forgets. He doesn’t do a great job at planning the priorities of a given day.
And, yes, his priorities aren’t necessary ones I would call priorities.
What’s the solution for a parent who is now an In-Between Parent?
That is one I’m still trying to figure out. For now, I guess I just keep doing what I’ve always done. “You have a zoom meeting with your college counselor today.” “Your AP test is coming up soon, do you have a plan for studying?” “What hours do you want to work when your paying job begins this summer?”
These are things my son and I discuss. I’m not going to suddenly stop because in terms of maturity and independence he’s not at that point yet. He will be. Someday. But, he’s late with stuff. Always has been.
He’s more responsible now than he’s ever been. College is a big step even more the typicals.
So, I’ll help with college. I’ll make sure he signs up for classes.
I’ll point out that there might be some groups he’d like to join.
And, I’ll make sure he catches the bus on time (and fill in the transportation gaps when needed.).
My fear is it might come down to a time or two when I butt heads with someone at the college.
That may happen because (IMO) they won’t admit that there are In-Betweens like me. Unfortunately, that’s already happened. I’ve already questioned why I’m stuck in this weird in-between thing.
In-Between Parenting means constantly trying to let my son with autism be independent and make his own choices, until there comes a time when he might miss an important deadline or miss a bus or whatever.
Is that okay?
I say no. It’s not the best for him to just let him miss stuff. If he had executive functioning and the ability to plan things that were more typical, that might be a way to go.
A friend recently said to me, “People really don’t understand that parents of children with autism have to be helicopter parents. It’s a hard balance.”
In conclusion, I will be there for him because that’s what I’m going to do.
It’s fine, I guess, if my son always has to give me permission. But, really, is that the only way?
The only way for us In-Betweens?
Autism and the In-Between Parenting
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