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Fundamentally Human Questions

Parenting is an interesting process. And wildly different at every stage. These days, our challenges and triumphs revolve around adulthood and independence. My son turns 21 this year and will be aging out of programs available to him as an autistic Minneapolis resident. But, once again, we seem to exist in a grey area. As a community, we’re working to move away from damaging labels like low-functioning and high-functioning in favor of the social model of disability. This model maintains that disability is caused by the way society is organized rather than an individual’s impairment or difference. It looks at ways of removing barriers that restrict life choices for┬ádisabled┬ápeople. Unfortunately, one barrier my son has kept bumping up against is employment. And the older he gets without having paid employment in his work history, the harder it will be for him to become employed. I had high hopes for one program he is eligible for. But we were told that he is, essentially, doing too well to be a good fit for that paid internship. But only because he is able to take the bus independently and has been reasonably successful, academically, in his first year at community college. This assessment doesn’t take into account the areas where he needs more support. When he was younger a therapist referred to some of his abilities and behaviors as splinter skills:

Splinter skills are abilities that are disconnected from their usual context and/or purpose. Because they are just a ’splinter,’ or fraction, of a meaningful set of skills, splinter skills may not be particularly useful in real-world situations.

Sometimes I worry about his problem-solving skills but that could be just as much about him being a young adult as it is about his autism. And last week he impressed me. He was offered and accepted his first part-time job, at a bakery. On his own, he realized he was feeling overwhelmed and came up with the plan to drop his ceramics class, in order to have more time to study and complete homework assignments for his other classes.

My son at the kite fest

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