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Autism: Choices Made Long Ago

This morning I woke up early with a nearly overwhelming urge to plan What if? Not what if I get this job, or win the lottery, or suddenly find myself pregnant, but more on the lines of: What if I could return twenty years in the past, indwell my twenty year old body, and live and make decisions based on who I am now, and what I now know?

If that were possible, what would I do differently? What would I do the same? Where would I live? (On ‘my little corner’ where I always find myself in my dreams?) Who would I live with? What job would I do?

If I didn’t move across the country, would I still have turned to church and found faith? If I hadn’t met my husband, what would his life be like now? (Probably much messier, much simpler, and easier for him, I imagine.) If I hadn’t tried to adopt “my” children, would someone else have succeeded in adopting them? Would they still be together now?

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If I hadn’t moved away from home, would I have followed through on homeschooling my son? If we had remained close to our families, would my son be more social? Would he have friends who lived close enough to visit? Would he seem so alone?

If I didn’t have twenty years of failure behind me, would I still have sought my Autism diagnosis? Would I have brought my son in for his? Would we still have gotten it?

I am completely overwhelmed by the reality that my choices have such lasting consequences – and that if I choose wrong, working to fix it won’t remove all that was set in motion due to that choice.

I don’t know whether this is in spite of, or because of, my form of Autism, but I spend an unreasonable amount of time and energy considering things that are outside of the laws of the world I find myself in.

And though I know making plans for what I might have done is at best a waste of time, the pull is so strong that I will likely spend my day fixated on it anyway. Though I realize it will ultimately lead to me feeling trapped so far from home, for a while – a very little while – I will believe that “anything can happen,” and there I will find hope.

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The Adoption Part Two

Though I was very nervous about the pre-adoption classes, I didn’t find them particularly hard. It had only been a few years since I took my Early Childhood Education, and at the time I was still running my daycare, so I knew quite a bit about children going in.

I am also a researcher by nature, and by the time we had our classes, I had read a lot of material about the main types of challenges we might face adopting out of the foster care system. I wasn’t naive enough to believe that it would be easy, but my concerns at this point were more about how to pass the home study, and whether we had enough bedrooms for the children.

While I did all that I could to prepare, the future is an abstract concept to me that I find difficult to imagine. I can dream of what the future might bring, and with that comes both excitement and fears, but I can’t put myself into that space to see how I would do there.

Since I was already used to having 7 children around me each day in my daycare, my husband and I decided that we would ask for a sibling group. I believe that it is especially important to keep siblings together when they have experienced a trauma, as all of these children have.

It was winter when I called for information on adoption, spring when our classes started, and fall of that year was when we started our home study. By this time, the social worker already had a sibling group in mind for us to adopt, and I was very anxious, and very excited.

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As is true to my nature, I put all of myself into the home study, and the projects that we were given to complete during it. Our social worker said she had never had anyone who was so thorough in the things she asked us to do – but that is who I am.

It was hard for me to talk about my past to the social worker – both because my early years were traumatic themselves, but also because of my difficulty in making the connections between thoughts and words. It would have been really helpful to have questions written out that I could answer beforehand, but of course, we didn’t know about my Autism at that time. I highly doubt that we would have been allowed to adopt if they had known.

That is not to say that I believe Autistic people couldn’t make good parents, whether adoptive or biological, but the Children’s Ministry is very strict about who they allow to adopt. There is good reason for that, as these children have already had a difficult beginning, and the social workers need to feel confident that the parents are healthy, and emotionally stable going in. They just don’t understand enough about Autism to have that confidence at this time.

For myself, I believe I had a lot of strengths to give to my children – if only the ministry had understood the reason for my weaknesses in order to work with and around them. For it was my weaknesses that ultimately brought about the removal in the end. I did try to express my needs in positive ways, but it was my weakness they saw just the same.

But here, I am getting ahead of myself. We are still in the home study at this point, and my dream is not yet over.

I made it through the home study, and spoke fully about all of those difficult topics that I dreaded bringing up. I also spoke of all I had done to heal from that time, and of all the effort I had put into learning how to care for children since then.

So we passed the home study, and then came the wait. The wait was hard, and filled with anxiety. They knew at that point which children they wanted us to adopt, but still we had to wait. It was hard knowing our children were out there somewhere, growing up in foster care, and we were losing all of those months that we could have been getting to know them. It was hard, but there was still a lot that the social workers had to do on their end before the move could take place.

And then it happened. The following summer came, and suddenly we had three more little children to call our own. We were a family of six, and I was happy.

 

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