Contrary to popular belief, you don't outgrow autism. Now, I'm not saying that some of the mannerisms and idiosyncrasies don't diminish or change, because they do, sort of. Drake (at almost 19) still paces and shakes his hands and he prefers his electronic devices to interactions with people (for the most part). Drake still loves Legos and Disney movies, and video games. Some of his tastes have changed and he loves web comics and YouTube and anime too. He still refuses to eat potatoes specifically, but will eat most things I make for dinner. Drake still doesn't like loud places or bright lights (transition lenses sure help and he doesn't go very far without headphones either) Drake is attending community college with his peers and asked to take classes on campus this semester (he took online classes last semester). Drake is little boy in so many ways, trying to navigate around adult life in this big man's body. It's been interesting, to say the least.
Drake with his love of kitty shirts and crazy mismatched socks, roams the neighborhood frequently walking (pacing with a purpose, mostly) through the paths that cross in and out of the park and find their way to the sidewalk. This is where he can walk to Basha's and get a doughnut and a soda (or mac n' cheese from the deli) and sit in the courtyard seating area before wandering home. It's a little bit of independence that we can give him. I'm not sure how much he interacts with others while he's there, but our neighborhood is full of senior citizens and most just smile as he talks Drake.
Drake, as of now, has no desire to learn how to drive. He has the ability to learn, he just doesn't want to and this is fine for now. Drake has a sister who is just 16 months younger than him and a year behind him in school and for now, drives him to class in the morning before going to school herself. My husband and I take turns picking him up when he's done and it seems to have worked out just fine. Eventually, we would like to relocate as a family to someplace where there is a better access to public transit (we live in the burbs now) and this should help later on.
Drake wore a quarter-sized hole in his flip flops recently and never even said a word. I found them and trashed them immediately, shaking my head in disbelief. I shouldn't have been surprised though, it was typical Drake. He wears things until they no longer fit and are threadbare. He complains when he needs to get new ones (although, not as much as he used to). He has to be reminded to wash his hair really good and to shave scraggly chin hairs and to put ointment on his eczema (he over-washes his hands). He is scary while chopping something with a knife (he still has a fine-motor issue), but can make himself grilled cheese and heat things up in the microwave with ease.
So, what now?
Think of an eleven or twelve year old kid, in an adult man's body and this is Drake. He still has his favorite stuffed animals (and gets sad when his baby sister steals them) and has an affinity for Pikachu, but can stay at home by himself and be fine. Drake watches YouTube instead of homework sometimes and will stay curled up in his bed all day, unless we insist he interacts with us (or if mom is cooking, ha-ha). Drake's younger brother gets frustrated with him mostly when they are supposed to be cleaning up their shared room and he isn't contributing. Imagine having an older brother who is supposed to be guiding the way, but who you have surpassed in maturity. Drake's little brother has always had Drake for a brother and when they were small, Drake was still the older brother. It's very different now though, little brother is 15 now and is finding his way through the world and big brother is still moving forward, but very, very slowly. Drake's younger sister on the other hand, has always been the more mature one of them and is infinitely patient with him. The dynamic has shifted in the last couple of years and I can only hope that little brother can come to terms with it.
Drake will probably live with us for a very long time and this is okay. We have some plans to relocate and will seek out a place to live to give Drake a little more independence with a space of his own. This way he'll be right with us when he needs help, but can learn to live independently eventually. Drake is working towards a degree database management with plans to transfer to university and seems to be very interested in the field as a whole. Drake is as involved with his religious practices as he wants to be (he's fairly selective in what he chooses to participate in) and seems to enjoy to having a place to belong.
I had someone ask me once if it was "difficult" having a kid like Drake. The answer is no. If Drake were neuro-typical, he wouldn't be Drake. Drake, with his goofy grin and his mismatched socks and his constant "would you rather?" questions. Drake with his Pikachu backpack and his pacing through the house. Drake with his always willing to help when asked (even if he doesn't know how) and annoyance with Mom calling him "baby" (because they are all my babies, even the big ones). "Ich einen, Man!" (or something like that) he'll shout in German when I insist that he's still my baby. By the way, he's taken about 6 years of German now and it's fun to him speak it, even if he's just asking for another cookie. I have never wanted anything for Drake, other than for him to be happy with himself. He's working toward bettering himself and we're here to support him and give him the ability to reach his goals. I sure love my #drakedrakethegreat.