Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The missed milestone that nobody actually missed

For months now, I've been dreading the day when friends with children who are Max's age start looking at colleges. I've figured that it will gnaw at my heart because I'll be reminded that I don't have a boy who is going to apply to the colleges that these teens are, if at all. Max can stay in his school until he is 21; they have a good job training program.

I don't much ache anymore about peer stuff that Max isn't part of, because Max is Max and I accept and adore him for who he is. College is not out of the question. I recently found out about Think College, a national nonprofit dedicated to improving college options for people with intellectual disability. Still, Max will be taking a different path than most of my friends' children. While I no longer do the comparing thing—a special form of parent torture—college is a major milestone, one that could bring on the why-isn't-he-doing-that distress of his early years.

I don't need that. Max doesn't deserve that.

Then yesterday, I realized I'd totally forgotten about another big-deal teen milestone, and wondered if maybe the lack of a college hunt won't upset me like I'd thought it could. I was browsing my local mom's group Facebook page, and saw that someone was asking about a driving school for her teen. OHHHH. DRIVING. This is the age when teens start taking lessons. But the twinge of sadness I'd expected never came. I felt nothing.

Although Max went through a phase in which he liked to sit in our car in the driveway and pretend to drive, he's never expressed an interest in doing the real thing. A few years ago, we had a conversation about it  and he told me that he didn't want to drive because he was afraid he'd crash. Watching videos of people with cerebral palsy driving adapted cars did not persuade him.

I checked in with him again, armed with a recent article about a 22-year-old Australian with cerebral palsy who is a professional truck driver—and his name is Max.


My Max enjoyed the video. He expressed interest in driving a moving truck to California, where he'd like to move. I explained thathe'd  need lessons to know how to drive, and that lots of teens went to driving school and practiced with their parents. Did he want to learn? 

"No, thank you!" he said. That boy knows he can rent a moving truck. 

So, Max didn't care about missing a milestone. And I didn't care, either.  

Max has his own dreams for the future. His plans of moving to California include the University of Southern California, because he likes the way the buildings look. And because it's in Los Angeles. USC doesn't yet seem to have programming for people with intellectual disability, but who knows, maybe they will. Or another college in CA could work out, even after he completes the program at his school—if that's what works best and is what he wants.

When Max was a little kid, I assumed I'd always be the one to take care of him and show him the way. But now, Max shows us the way. He is an opinionated teen (is there any other kind?!) with a whole lot of determination. He knows what he wants and what makes him happy. He doesn't feel he's missing out on stuff in life (well, other than a mansion in Beverly Hills). He doesn't care that he's not driving. He won't care that he won't be doing the college rounds with his parents. And if I can just keep that in my heart and head, neither will I.


  1. My NT daughters are older than my son w/ autism. They are both now in college. One is a freshman, the other in her 3rd year, but graduating in the spring. Been through the driving and college search. Fortunately I can just laugh when thinking about Luke (16) driving. No way, no how would it ever work. But homecoming was the past weekend. Lots of Facebook pictures of our typical and sped friends dressed up for the dance. (Our school provides supports for the dance.) But Luke isn't social like that. The noise and number of people would have been too hard. But it still made me a little sad.

    I sometimes wonder what college means for our kids who do have intellectual disabilities. Is it continued academic learning (Luke loves to learn)? Is it job training (our community college does have a job training program for those who are more likely to be in a competitive job)?

    I know that starting this spring I need to start visiting various job and vocational training places because that transition to adulthood is coming way to fast. Luke turns 17 in 2 weeks!

    And there is one thing all of our boys get to do -- they get to register for the draft. At first I was astonished by this. But since there is no draft why should the government spend money to determine who is physically/cognitively eligible?

    1. Janet, Max turns 17 in December so he is right behind Luke. Is he in a public school? Max's program at school includes job sampling, though I will be also looking around. Like Luke, Max also enjoys learning, which is why it's very possible that he could finish up his current program and, at 21, attend college (if that's what he wants).

  2. I’m sure Max will be able to do anything he wants to, as long as he is given the support he needs and carries on with his therapies ( which is so important). He definitely has the determination and the potential. I am terrified of driving and even if I wanted to drive, it’s probably not possible because I’ve recently been told that by Easter, I will not be able to walk at all. I’ve just started a blog about my life with CP and if you click on my name you are welcome to check it out.

  3. The great thing is there are so many more transportation options these days. Regardless of whether he can drive Max will probably have multiple ways of getting around independently. And hey if he does make it to California, our community colleges are pretty darn cheap (and free for many students). I know some people with intellectual disabilities take regular community college classes and some have even managed to get an associate's degree. Usually over quite a long period of time and with a great deal of work, but you never know what Max might put his mind to!

    1. Good to know about CA, Jamie! You're right about transportation options. Self-driving cars are totally within the realm of possibility for him.


Thanks for sharing!

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