So, if you have a typical child who is a teenager, the decision to leave them home alone probably makes more sense to you than it does to having a child on the spectrum while making that same decision.
I know that this kind of decision varies for many and many parents may have different views on this.
Well, if you had asked me 2 years ago, would I ever leave my child on the spectrum home alone. my answer would have been a clear and fast, “No!”
But today as I sit here, I need to tell you that I did just that, yesterday. Yup, I did.
Was this an easy decision to make? Absolutely not. Did I do it without thinking? No, I did not.
You see, even though sometimes I feel that our son’s progress is slow or at times non-existent, as I look back now and realize that I never in a million years thought I would ever do this. I guess I still had pictures in my head of when our son was younger, running and running and me barely able to catch up with him.
Fast forward today, it’s really a totally different story. For us, this gradually happened with very small baby steps. You see our son up until 3 years ago, would barely let me out of his sight. He got upset if I even took the dog for a walk, even when my husband was home.
So you may ask, how did I achieve this? Well, I had a plan, but it was very flexible.
There were times when our son was younger and he was at home from school ill and I couldn’t take our dog even for a short walk because I honestly didn’t know what he would do.
When we used to walk the dog together and he was on his scooter, there is a route that we take around a school close to our house as there is lots of grass around it, I would make him wait at every corner so that he was always in my eye-line. He would have to wait quite a few times and then as we would walk onto our street, he had to wait for me even though it is not very far. This same routine went on for years.
Then a couple of years ago, I decided to loosen this restriction a bit. I would make him wait for me before he went onto our street so he knew he could only go so far and then he had to wait until I could see him.
Then this year, I just let him go around. He knew the routine so he could do his scooter route, then go home before me, put his scooter back in the shed and go into the backyard and he did this perfectly every time!
Our son is 15 and his sister is 17, so this spring I left them alone together many times. Lots of times it would just be me going up to the grocery store at the end of the street or the drug store. Then I gradually ventured out to Costco (which is a lot farther) and I kept checking in with our daughter to see how things were at home.
In all of these instances, it went really well. I always told our son where I was going and when I would return.
This school year, when our son was at home ill, I would leave him and take the dog for a walk and I told him when I would be back. This was a good first test and with him being ill, the chances of him really wanting to do much was very slim.
Yesterday, I had to go pick up a furniture item. I needed our daughter to help me lift it in and I knew there would be any room in the vehicle for our son as I had to put the back seats down. In my mind, I went back and forth with this. Should I try? I asked my daughter and she said I should. She knows him pretty well, so I trusted her judgement. We weren’t very far from home and he didn’t really want to come anyway. So I told him what I was doing and I also told him that his sister was coming with me and that he would be home alone.
Could anything have happened? Yes. Did it? No. It was risky for me, but I want to try do this more often. This is not a decision or something I will do without any thought. For us, this process is very gradual, but I will continue allowing him to grow, develop and become his own person.
If you think right now that your children will never get to this point, don’t give up. You will be surprised as they learn new things and face new challenges, how much really they can actually do.
It was a great day to be a parent!