I have two children, ages 14 and 12. My 14-year-old daughter is a typically developing girl who is getting ready to start high school next month. My 12-year-old son is on the autism spectrum. He has severe ADHD and exceptional needs. And me? I have been battling severe depression a long time. It’s a bear to manage, and raising two kids, especially when one has special needs, can be very overwhelming. I do the best I can.
My son is high functioning. He is progressing at school, which consists of a lot of Applied Behavior Analysis therapy. He does well in school because he is used to the structure and the expectations his teachers have of him. But I know he needs more than what I can give him at home. I know he needs to be in a structured setting that will help him thrive. And I recently came to the conclusion that it is not realistic for me to do that at home, in the way he needs it.
Realizing that I can’t really give my son what he needs was a wake-up call for me. I knew I had to make a decision about his future sooner rather than later. I know that he will be dependent on someone for life. He won’t go to college, drive, get married or have a career. It was a very depressing thing to realize that he will need to live in a group home. I have been fearing for his future for a long time now. Who will care for him? Eventually I won’t be around. And I can’t put that kind of responsibility on my daughter. She deserves to live her own life.
And I am not able to do so myself right now because my mental health won’t tolerate it. I am trying to do what is best for him and also what is best for myself. I haven’t really been able to take care of myself because everyone else’s needs come first, which has only made my illness worse. I have to take care of myself so I can do what is best for the kids.
My husband and I have agreed that the only option for him to really thrive is to transition him into a residential facility where he will receive vocational training and be as independent as he can. I decided to reach out to a community living facility to find out how to get the process started. Of course, there were concerns: Will it be the right type of facility for him? How will he get along with others there? What about waiting lists? But with the aid of our social workers, we’re assured that they can find the best fit for him and are doing the proper assessments to ensure he will be happy in his situation. We’re also fortunate enough that our Canadian taxes will go toward paying for his care and thereby making this feasible for our family.
I have told some people about this decision, and many do support it. I have also been called selfish, been told that I only want to get my son out of my hair, and told that I need to quit using my depression as an excuse for everything. The people who said that to me probably wouldn’t even last a day in my shoes.
If I kept my son at home, he would not thrive. I would become more frustrated. His behaviors would escalate. My becoming more depressed would be a very real outcome, and that wouldn’t be good for either of us. Depression is a real illness, just like cancer. And like cancer, people need to take care of themselves and get treatment. Like cancer, not everyone is able to beat depression.
Of course, my decision does not at all mean I am abandoning my son or that I won’t miss him and his sweet smile. I will visit and will do all that I can so that he is set up for when he turns 18 in every way possible. Whenever someone who is quick to judge asks me, “Don’t you want to do what is best for your child?” (when what she meant is to keep him “protected” at home), my response is always, “Why yes, of course. This is why I made this incredibly devastating decision. Because this IS the best thing for my child.”
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