Jason’s Connection recently received a question from a community member as to how to help their son, who is on the autism spectrum, deal with his fears of growing up. Jason Harris, the founder of Jason’s Connection who is also on the autism spectrum and is presently attending Syracuse University's M.ED Program, offers a few thoughts.
I often experienced similar fears when I was younger. First, I want to acknowledge that these fears are very tough and this can happen to Anyone! Change may need to be gradual. Don’t make it happen all at once.
It can sometimes seem...that others are more understanding when you are younger.
Your son may be scared that the relationship with you will change. It may be scary for him to look at his future. When you have a disability, it can sometimes seem, whether real or not, that others are more understanding and accepting when you are younger. Your son may also fear that there will be changes in your relationship with him and feels that the only way he knows how to relate and to hold on to what he knows best is to stay “Young.” Be Patient and Help Him Accept Himself. Don’t force change. It will happen!
Don't feel you have to be in a hurry to make him too "socially appropriate."
Don’t feel you have to be in a hurry to make him too “socially” appropriate. Explain to others and to him in a respectful way what may be going on and take it one step at a time. One example may be that perhaps Holding Hands may be what he needs right now, so allow that possibly with the idea that in the future he won’t need that as often, but it is okay right now.
Reassure him that growing up won’t weaken the relationship with you and others. Also show him positive examples of those with Disabilities growing up, such as RJ Mitte, and others. There is so much stigma around disability and infantilizing younger children with a disability. The message can often feel to those going through those struggles that to be Accepted or Understood you had to BE and STAY young, i.e., you are cute and accepted as a child with a disability, but the notion of growing up and being a competent young person or adult with diverse abilities is often minimized or overlooked in our society.
Help[ing] your son accept and embrace who he is will give him confidence.
These are just some of my thoughts. However, be aware that helping your son accept and embrace who he is will give him confidence in growing up and being all that he can be.
Founder of Jason’s Connection – an online resource for those with disabilities, mental health, aging and other needs. Jason was awarded an M.S. in Cultural Foundations of Education and Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies from Syracuse University. Jason is also a Project Coordinator and Research Associate at the Burton Blatt Institute, an international think tank for Disability Rights and Human Justice at Syracuse University. He regularly contributes to the blog in his own series called Jason’s View and travels the country consulting and speaking about disability issues and rights. To read more from Jason Harris, read Jason's View.