I was jolted Sunday by the lead story on The New York Times’ home page about Justin Canha’s transition from autistic kid to autistic adult. A boy obsessed with animation, can’t socialize well and possessing artistic skill? It was like reading about Nate. I know, and the article points out, that there are hundreds of thousands of autistic late teens about to enter the real world. How will they adjust? How will they be greeted? What are the possibilities? For parents of younger autistic kids, mothers and fathers who struggle with and fear an unknown future, the travails of this first generation coming of age out of the explosion of autism diagnosis in the ’90’s is of great interest. It’s what Mission of Complex is about.
Nate is lucky to be where he is, in college, with a support team that includes parents, siblings, aides, professors and advisors. We know that and his path is not the one for everyone. Nor is Justin’s. But these ARE qualified success stories and I’m sure there are many others.
A friend pointed out what the Times’ piece misses, in its almost predictable emphasis on rich suburban New York City and its well off school district. Further, she said, Nate’s experience in rural Cooperstown is counter-intuitive, that our family’s ability to find the right help and resources for Nate was more difficult.
And I know it’s true for many Mission of Complex readers, or commenters on entries reposted on The Autism Support Network’s Facebook page, that they don’t have the benefit of living in an area that provides the services they need. There are a lot of parents, single or double, who are struggling financially, who live in areas that don’t seem to have the ability, or worse, the desire, to help a struggling kid and family.
Yet, I found in Cooperstown that there are people who are drawn to Nate and willing to help him out. Karen and I learned early on that being Nate’s advocate was crucial to his success. It was and still is the case, for Nate, and for Justin, and for your kids too.