As a mom of a teenage boy on the spectrum, I’m constantly trying to find the best time/way to connect with my son. A time that he won’t be defensive, or irritated or tune me out. Oh wait…that has nothing to do with being on the spectrum but more to do with being a teenager or does it??? I am constantly trying to determine where the lines of teenager behavior stop and the traits of my child on the spectrum start. When it comes to connecting with him these lines are forever blurring for me and I find that I have to seize the moments to connect with him whenever I can. In the last couple of years, those times seem to come when we are in the car. It’s such an odd place to think about having sincere heart to heart conversations. We aren’t looking at each other (maybe that’s it); sometimes it’s on the way to school, or to church, or to guitar lessons, or a doctor’s appointment (there are always plenty of those). Somehow these times have become a time of confessions and honest conversation. We talk about such a variety of topics; girls (of course), his faith, my faith, his sports interests, who was traded to what team (I do my best to follow along), the situation with a boy in English that annoyed him, his volunteer time with the Severely Disabled students, his dad, applying for a job, practicing his interview skills and that was in the last 2 weeks before school was out.
I remember when I tried this for the first time him. We were on a short road trip to Va. Beach over spring break, he was about 13. I had friends tell me that the time in the car with their teens was always a good time to talk to them “you know they are trapped so they have to talk to you”. On this road trip I decided to give it a shot. Snacks in the cooler, drinks up front, playlist in the queue we hit the road. In my head I had a list of things I wanted to talk about. Needless to say, he had other ideas; he put in his ear buds and fell asleep. We didn’t actually talk much on that trip down to the beach but on the way home I hit pay dirt. I learned a lot on that ride back to Richmond and it gave me great hope for being able to connect with my son in the future.
Each year brings new challenges and new ways of coping with those challenges.
He’s actually driving on his own now, so those times in the car with him as my captive audience will likely be a lot less, but having a willing chauffeur hasn’t been too bad.
Asperger’s and Autism is such an unknown for us as these years continue to pass. I (we – his dad and I) want to make sure we are helping our son grow and mature to be all he can be. And still the question is what’s going to be possible? Is he capable of going to college? Is he capable of living on his own and caring for himself? How long should we expect to help him into his adult life?
I don’t think we will have these questions answered for a very long time. However, for today our 16 year old is driving and is working and doing many teenage activities. So as I look back on those times when I was trying to connect with my teenage son (who has Asperger’s) I think I was lucky to find a way to connect with him. I don’t know what the future holds but I won’t stop trying to find a solution for us.