Jeremy, 25, has been wanting to leave home and live with a roommate for many years. Wanting to, and being ready to are not the same thing. Jeremy has autism, communicates by typing, and has sensory -visual -motor challenges that impede his daily living. He also suffers from PTSD from abuse that occurred outside the home.
When he finally felt ready, there were the administrative and funding requests, negotiations and mediation to go through. Then the search for an affordable apartment in the area he wanted to live in, finding a vendored agency to work with that provides support staff and supervision, the search for a roommate and so on.
Jeremy wanted to live in the neighborhood he grew up in. He enjoys living and shopping where he sees familiar people and feels welcome because they are happy to see him and always have a kind word for him. As one of his support staff says “Everyone knows Jeremy!”
Jeremy finally launched on Monday, Labor Day. People kept asking me the last few months that he was transitioning to his new place, “How does it feel now that he is moving out?” This is what it felt like: enduring the longest birthing labor in the history of the world! Those who have given birth will know what I mean when I say the last three weeks were unbearable – much like the last month of pregnancy when you can’t wait for the baby to come out, and you feel like it will never end. I was so ready. Jeremy was so ready.
When I was pregnant years ago, I remember people would see or hear that you were pregnant, and feel compelled to tell you about the disastrous pregnancy they or a friend went through. The same happened while we were preparing to launch. I heard, “Aren’t you afraid? Bad things can happen. He’s not going to be safe now.” (some pretty bad things happened when he lived at our house – at school and at camp). “Nothing’s going to be perfect you know. My aunt/cousin/brother had a terrible experience with their son’s living situation.”(Sorry to hear that. We’ve prepared and we’ll take our chances – we know we will have to go with the flow and despite preparation challenges will arise but we’ll look for workable solutions – such is life). “He might hate it and want to come home.” (Yes, and his sister Rebecca who is moving to Seattle might end up hating it and not finding enough work, but we wouldn’t stop her from trying). “Oh, you are really going to miss him.” (Yes, and I really miss his sister Rebecca as well). “You won’t know what to do with your time now.” (Really? Try me!).
Life is about taking calculated risks. There are no guarantees when you are pregnant that your baby will be perfect, and in Jeremy’s living situation there are no guarantees either. We – both Jeremy and the family - prepared as much as we could. Jeremy and I even co-authored a book, A Full Life with Autism, to share information we learned to help others with that preparation that doesn’t happen overnight. Jeremy improved on his daily life skills and self-advocacy skills so he could be more independent in his own place.
I know it will not be always be easy or fun for him, nor for us. When I hear he is happy, I’m happy. When I hear he is sad or nervous, I feel bad. But he had those same emotions living at home. As he is non-verbal and relies on other people for most of his wants and needs, I am concerned about his safety. But we are not totally gone out of his life – he lives in the same geographical area and we are still providing him space at our house in which to paint his Jeremy’s Vision projects. But he is making his own home now, becoming more independent, and being more in control of his life.
There will be bumps in the road. But such is life. It’s those bumps in the road that will help Jeremy- and the rest of the family - learn and grow.