What Happens Next? Raising a Son With Autism by Rick Schostek is part-memoir, part-resource, and part-inspiration. This book is written from the perspective of a dad whose son is now facing adult life with autism.
In it, Rick reflects on his son’s experiences to this point and shares all that the family and the rest of Greg’s support team have done to help him develop along the way, but with a focus toward the questions and decisions that arise for someone with a developmental disability as they approach adulthood. As he candidly puts it:
It’s one thing to conquer potty training, simple math or a social skill. Quite another to set up a support structure for your adult child that must endure after you’re gone.
While his son is at a different point on the spectrum than my son, I found much to relate to in Rick’s story. I love his description of people with autism as “a diverse group with common traits” and can see so many similarities in the challenges and triumphs we have witnessed. I can also attest to having many of the same questions and fears that Rick shares with regard to how my child will function as an adult in our society, especially after I am no longer around.
However, just as my son has surprised me when he learns something I wasn’t sure he would ever get, Greg has taught his parents and the other adults in his life never to underestimate his capacity for change and growth. Despite his limited communication skills, he successfully completed a year-long internship program during his final year of high school, taking on more difficult assignments as the year progressed and showing increasing independence and responsibility.
As the book concludes, Greg is 23 years old and combining part-time work with adult day services, along with some volunteer work at the hospital where he was previously an intern. His parents have obtained legal guardianship for him and have set up a special needs trust so that they can provide some extras for him while maintaining his eligibility for governmental assistance. They are still looking for the best answers for where he will live after they are gone.
Rick spends the last quarter of the book discussed the various issues they had to face as Greg went through the transition process. Although the information can vary from state to state – they live in Ohio – I found his explanations of the different programs, such as SSI and Medicaid waivers, very helpful. He also details the options they have looked into with regard to employment and housing.
I am so thankful for the time and effort Rick has put into documenting his journey and his efforts towards his son’s transition to adulthood. It is so hard for me to imagine that far into the future, especially without allowing fear to creep in. Rick’s goal for parents like me is to “be able to raise their heads and look further down the road. To see a vision of how their child can be included in the community as an adult.”
If you are the parent of a person with autism, of any age, you will appreciate What Happens Next?.
I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. All comments and opinions are my own.