Several weeks ago a parent was recounting a story about a decision she made for her 29-year-old daughter. Part of the story: “We are talking to her about how she has to be able to drive or, at least, to access the bus in order to live independently and hold a job. We will drive her to work now. We feel that her job is critical to helping her become more independent. But, this issue came to a head last week. She asked us to drive her to her church. Yes, we know that there might be as much value in her attending church as work, but we had to draw the line. Her church is 40 minutes away. We can’t get into that habit.” Long pause. “Or, should we?”
This issue is not one of appropriateness or correctness, rather what lies beneath: There is no guilt-free decision when it comes to parents helping adult-aged children on the spectrum. Behavior rationales appear confusing and inconsistent — “Sure, we’ll drive you to work” but “No, we won’t drive you to…” Parents push work skills or driving or personal hygiene or socialization or organization while something else slides. And, they feel guilty about it, as though there was a better decision to be made; as though, they have not thought long and hard about the consequences of the choices they make for their children.
Do we make him pay rent? Where will he get the money? Will he have to get a job? Do we give him an allowance and let him use that? Do we write up a contract? How else will he safely learn about paying bills? How will he learn about the components that lead to an eviction? Will he ever even understand the gravity of an eviction?
Parents do the social thinking that comes so hard to their children. They do it for them because they can draw on the life experiences that their children lack. They do it for them because those life experiences may be too negative, too scarey to be beneficial. They do it for them because those life experiences seem so advanced, so non-pertinent to the other issues at hand.
With any one step forward, parents often feel like 15 more pushes shove them back. A choice always exists. The reality is that there might not be a right or wrong choice, just another set of forward and backward steps to contend with.