After three days with no responses from Jonah to my calls and texts, I was getting a little cross. Once we got him on the line this weekend, it was hard to get really mad at him though, because he was so, so, so happy.
He was around people! In real classrooms! Playing soccer! On campus with his girlfriend! At first, he was a little shy about joining in the social events at the fraternity, because he’s been so isolated for two years, and most of his friends graduated last June. But he pushed himself and had a great time. He hadn’t call us, he explained, because he’s been so super busy between classes and social life. God, I’m just so happy for him.
Ian, on the other hand, isn’t busy enough. I managed to squeeze out two more years of public school education for him, so he can try to repair his social skills. He’s in a program, located in a windowless basement (no ventilation in a pandemic. ugh.) in the downtown area for kids with IEPs that aren’t ready to graduate. Theoretically, he’ll spend the morning in the program learning independent living skills and participating in social skill groups. In the afternoon, he should be in jobs and internships in the community with a job coach. It’s a new program that only has been open for two half days, so it’s too early to say how it’s working out.
In general, I’m a huge fan of these types of programs and think that they should be expanded to include more kids and more services. Too many kids are not prepared for work or higher education or job training programs after high school. Programs like this one, which are located right in local communities, can be beneficial not just for the individuals, but the entire community.
If it works out for Ian, I’ll be happy. But I have some concerns. I think he’s the highest functioning kid in there. We’ll have a meeting in 30 days to see how things are working out.
And then I signed him for a class at the community college, too, so he can get more math and computer skills. Ian’s social skills aren’t ready for full time college attendance, so I signed him up for an online async math class. The class is too easy for him and still keeps him isolated in his room, but I thought it would be a good way to slowly introduce him to expectations of college life.
But he’s still not busy enough. If Ian doesn’t have a full day of activity, he retreats to his computer and his mind and his lists and charts and compulsive information building on various wiki pages.
To prevent Ian from getting too isolated, I am a full time camp director. For example, his program doesn’t meet today, because of the Jewish holidays, so I created some structure for the day. He’ll watch his college lecture and finish his homework this morning. That will take an hour, so he can have free time for the rest of the morning. At noon, we’ll make lunch and then go to the college to get his student ID. Then we’ll find a theater that is playing a matinee of the latest Marvel movie. On the way back, I’ll stop in the supermarket and get food for dinner. I’ll make dinner and have it ready for Steve and Ian, so I can go to a running club at 6 pm. (I have to join lots of groups to make sure that I don’t get too isolated. Caretakers are outsiders.)
Yesterday, we all went to a museum in New York and found an Irish bar on the upper east side for a little day drinking. You know why Steve and I are always traveling and finding new things to do? Because we’re keeping Ian busy. I mean it’s not terrible. Ian’s a great kid, very high functioning, low maintenance; Also, we all love going places and doing things. But organizing our lives around the needs of slightly lonely 19-year old isn’t sustainable. (I just got off the phone with a boarding school. That’s still an option.)
Going forward, I’m going to be doing lots of driving and coordinating between different programs. There will also be many days like today, where I have to develop something out of nothing. Steve can help out as long as he’s still working from home. Can Ian get to the local community college, if Steve goes back to the office and I get a new job? Probably not.
It’s a huge bummer that one kid has full days of activity, learning, and socializing, while the other kid is upstairs right now with nothing to do.