Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

alexartThe picture at the beginning is og myself and my son Alex while we travelled to Europe last summer. It pretty much conveys how we felt the entire journey: elated and in awe of the majestic beauty to be witnessed in Germany and Switzerland. We went there because I was at these very same places when I was a pre-teen, and I have been dreaming of returning. And Alex was available. He always is game to travel, especially if there are mountains to see, which remain his most favourite thing to visit.
He was almost 24 at this point. 24 going on 10 going on 50. He is an enigma. our son. His autism is still with him, and always will be, despite what many government agencies will have you believe that at the age of 18 it just magically disappears and you are fine. He still has to deal with a world he is not exactly wired for. But if I am being honest, to me he handles thing better than most neurotypical people do. He is an amazing, caring, loveable, decent, polite, engaging, soft. noble, and energizing person. Wherever he goes he seems to touch lives and it is continuously humbling to hear people tell me about him, those who have dealt with him through either work or other endeavours he gets involved in. We are immensely proud og him.
So here’s the thing. In the past when I have written about his and our family’s journey through autism, it was always with cautious optimistic hope. We had no idea where he would work, other than co-managing our store. WE knew he was so very able. He had proven this when he calmly took over the responsibilities at the store when our manager had to stop to deal with cancer. He stepped in and kept things going, and did it in such a way that completely surprised us, although looking back, we shouldn’t have been that surprised. In the past he has often proven himself, and I guess our expectations were low. I mean, he has autism….right?
Now if we as his parents think like that, what does the general population think? In my experience they think even lower than that, and mostly because it’s fear of the unknown. If you see Alex then speak o him he mostly seems happy and quirky. Those that get to know him are aware that there is so much more to him than meets the eye. But does that translate to hireability? Does it pay the bills?
2017 saw a dramatic change for Alex. It would lead to an incredible opening of opportunities for him, and a huge relief for us as parents. He first went through his DSO (Developmental Services Ontario) screening, which at least qualified him for services he had not been in line for. Best of all, he became part of Community Living West Nipissing, an agency which looks out after ao many of our special population, a place he can go to be himself, where he won’t be judged but instead embraced for his differences. The people we know and love at WNCL have made such an incredible difference in my son’s life and will be forever in our hearts for their incredible help and support. Through a program called ‘Job Path’ Alex connected with Nanditta Colbear, the director of Literacy Alliance West Nipissing, who was looking for someone to manage reception and other tasks appropriate with his position (Alex is very discrete and would not allow me to write more of what her does). He adores Nanditta, and by the way Nanditta treats him and her staff, the feeling is mutual. In yet another case of serendipity in our lives, our family has been at the right place at the right time. He absolutely loves his job.
What people often discover with individuals on the spectrum is that, when given a chance, loyalty and reliability are two of the many strengths they have. Always on time. Generally happy. Love routine. Excellent focus. You just have to get past the label of Autism.
And so, as we celebrate World Autism Awareness Day in 2018, we rejoice at the support agencies like West Nipissing Community Living and Literacy Alliance West Nipissing, and individuals like Nanditta Colbear, and Sylvie Belanger of WNCL and her most excellent staff of selfless loving and caring people (names too numerous to list here, but they know we love them) who have turned things around for not only Alex but so many others as well. We thank them for believing in our son and for allowing him to flourish at a time when he most needed to.
If you are just starting out on your own journey with autism, don’t fight the label, just the stigma. Embrace what support you can get, and allow the public to get to know your child. Fear of the unknown fades with the known. Hope is eternal….patience is the key. You’ve got this!