I have some exciting news to share! My incomparable writing partner, Dr. Jennifer Elizabeth Brunton, and I are clawing our way to the finish line of our second book, which focuses on advice for teens and young adults transitioning to adulthood. The book will be tentatively titled The #ActuallyAutistic Guide to Building Independence: Practical, Step-By-Step Advice for Teens, Young Adults, and Those Who Care About Them and will showcase advice from over 100 Autistic teens and adults on important life transitions.
For a variety of reasons, the journey to increased independence and adulthood-–in whatever form that might take for each person–tends to hold unique challenges for Neurodivergent people. They may build their autonomy on a variable timeline, in different ways, and/or relying on atypical types of connections and help. This book was being developed while my oldest Autistic son was transitioning from middle to high school and now beginning to think about life after graduation. The advice discussed is immediately relevant to our family and will help guide so many other Autistic teens, young adults, and those who care about them build independence in a variety of different ways with neurodiversity-affirming approaches.
It’s easy to worry about SO many things related to the transition to adulthood, from the biggest, most immediate safety concerns, to more trivial what ifs. Most recently, I let some dirty laundry on my son’s floor allow me to spiral into imagining what his college dorm would look like without me to remind him exactly where the hamper was. Clothes around and somehow underneath the hamper launched me into a panic about hygiene, consequent odors, social obstacles as a result of said odors…
But upon further reflection, I realized this was one of those trivial matters. It really doesn’t matter if his dirty clothes are on the floor of his dorm, as long as he cleans them regularly. And perhaps he’ll learn to clean up his room on a more regular basis if people avoid visiting him there because there is no room to sit and hang out.
I hope he won’t revert to a Pringles and Pediasure diet when left to fend for himself on a daily basis, but if he does for a period of time, that also wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world because maybe removing the task of meal prep will allow him to focus on other things like navigating new academic expectations and social scenes until he establishes a stable routine and feels more comfortable changing up his diet.
When I recently asked my son what he was most nervous about regarding this transition to being more independent, he had no concerns with some of the trivial things that I worried about. Instead he voiced frustration with his inability to drive due to his low vision. This will be a primary issue for him not only for the remainder of high school, but also for the rest of his life. He has hopes for the rapid advancement of self-driving cars, which will improve access for people with a variety of different disabilities. In the meantime, he worries about finding reliable ways to get to work, being able to meet up with people or attend events, and going to the grocery store or medical appointments. He wonders if he’ll be limited to working from home or in a big city where he can walk everywhere or take public transportation. But then he also admits that it doesn’t seem fair to have to pay to be transported everywhere. These are all concerns shared by our whole family, and we are just beginning to think more about how we can support his needs/desires for independence.
I’m excited for my son (and relatives) to read our newest book, which I believe will offer us a chance at aligning our advocacy efforts with what he wants for himself. I truly believe this book will help many self advocates and families consider their needs and how to advocate for them in neurodiversity-affirming ways. The #ActuallyAutistic Guide to Building Independence: Practical, Step-By-Step Advice for Teens, Young Adults, and Those Who Care About Them is planned for release early next year. More information to come!