On a warm June day, the school bus made its final stop at our house. Not literally, since due to the coronavirus pandemic it had stopped coming months before. However, on that June day members of the school staff arrived with a diploma and other gifts for our daughter Danielle.
Danielle is 21 years of age and has autism. After the magical age of 21 the school’s responsibility ends. Then what? We knew for a long time that this day would arrive, but it always seemed far off. It is a bit scary to face the change, and so much is uncertain at this time such as whether or not programs and activities will be open. There is a natural fear of the unknown and a nagging awareness that, despite all you do to lay the groundwork for your child, so much lies out of your control. Danielle has been getting on a school bus since she was in preschool. She has always been treated at school with kindness, dignity, and respect. When your child has autism and cannot speak, you worry about your child’s safety. However, Danielle’s happiness and overall demeanor quickly put these concerns to rest.
Now that she is done with school she will be attending adult programs and activities. These changes bring us renewed uncertainty. We don’t know if Danielle is fully aware that she will not be going back to school in the fall. We wonder if she is still trying to make sense of why the bus stopped coming here in March. We do know that today Danielle was overjoyed to see two of her teachers on that June day. They both made it a wonderful send-off. Danielle was happy, smiling and laughing. She was doing her best to use her iPad to communicate with them.
It is not always easy to find an appropriate job placement after high school for a child with special needs. Many variables such as independence levels must be considered. This can weigh heavy on the parents and child alike. Young adults with special needs must learn how to advocate for themselves, fit in, and be in an environment where they find understanding and acceptance.
When you feel anxious about your child’s ability to transition to the next step, remember that God has a plan for your child. Trust that plan. May we never fear change but see it as an opportunity to trust. Remember the words of the prophet Jeremiah: "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you."
David and Mercedes write and speak from a faith perspective as parents of a child with autism. Visit DavidAndMercedesRizzo.com to learn more.