Sunday, 1 March 2015

Tom turns 18!!! Woo Hoo (Gulp!)

Happy Birthday to Tom, our only child.  Its been a very big week for Tom, finishing with his 18th birthday yesterday. We had a small gathering at his favourite restaurant (Golden Grill, Werribee) last night where he ordered the same wrap he has been having now for 3 years.  They jokingly said they would try to find some gold foil to wrap it in to make it special instead of the normal alum foil. He loves that they know him and talk to him like a friend. No surprises, no anxiety or expectations on him.  He can go in whatever he is wearing and doesn't have to dress up.  Which he didn't.  Not even a shave Tom?.  He has a "take me as i am" attitude which is both good and bad.   For my new readers, Tom has Aspergers.

Later we came all came home for his special birthday cake.

Gorgeous, isn't it.  Its cookies and cream with chocolate plates and Oreo.  Same as last year.  Tom is consistent in his choices.  None of us were complaining.

This is Tom with his two favourite girls.  Chelsea and Tilly.  He does look happy.

He received many text messages, calls and greeting cards which included gift cards so he could buy what he liked.  Thank you to all of you for making his day special.  Today we went shopping and he paid for games that have not yet been released. Until he gets a job, his birthday is really the last opportunity he has to buy his games and so he has now paid for several that will be released throughout the year - smart kid.

Last weekend he and i found his birthday gift from us, his parents.  Yet another unusual choice, a two seater lounge for his "living room".  This year we took down a wall between two bedrooms to give him additional space.  He loved the colour and since it was a discontinued line we got an $800 two seater for $450.  It comes with a five years structural warranty and given that he's a big boy, this was important.

I think it looks great in his room and it will spur us on to complete this area.  In the shop it had a beautiful red shaggy rug in front of it that was way overpriced and so we introduced the colour using two $5 Big W cushions and his chocolate faux fur throw.

So what does this mean for my Man child, turning 18?  Well, in Oz, it now means he is required to vote in elections. Tom has very strong political views.  So much so that he doesn't see either party as being a great choice and please don't get him started on Tony Abbott.  He can "soapbox" for hours (such an Aspie thing) on how this country is a "Nanny State" and how censorship of games and a ban on guns is against civil rights. He would say that, now wouldn't he?. His Aspie special interest is military and so he lives and breathes guns, tanks, aircraft, military history, doco's on real live conflicts and of course, gaming.  He is entitled to his views even though i don't agree with them.  His focus is solely on his own interests.  He's not really concerned with taxation, infrastructure, refugees, education, employment or health.  Though if you ask him he will give you a lecture on all of them.  What 18 year old cares or has a clue?  I didn't.  

It also means that legally he is now an adult.  He can enter into a contract and it will be binding (scary).  He can purchase shares and hold property in his own right.  Should he break the law he will be dealt with and sentenced as an adult (double scary).  Tom can also buy alcohol, cigarettes and do a whole myriad of  other "adult" things. I'm not concerned about alcohol or cigarettes.  Tom's not fussed on either.  He has had access to alcohol in our home for a few months and really cant be bothered.  The Christmas beer is still sitting there. Tom knows he gets asthma and he hates cigarettes (thank God). When he was a little boy he use to run up to people outside the supermarket and tell them they were bad for smoking. (Gulp) I guess as a Mum i'm concerned about him unknowingly putting himself in danger or being under the influence of others for their own amusement or personal gain.  As an Aspie he sees the world differently and in some respects he can be quite naive and trusting and yet in others he is more mature than others his age.  He's not interested in brand labelled clothing like his peers and though i'm sure he would like a girl friend i think he is more interested in just having "a friend".  I do worry that when he gets out on his own that he will be vulnerable but i think that's a Mum thing whether you have an autistic child or not.

I did say this was a big week didn't I?.  Tom has now completed a Certificate III in Warehouse Logistics.  It took him five weeks full time and for him this was enormous.  He rarely leaves the house.  We are all so proud of his achievement but best of all he is proud of himself.

Foresite training is a purpose built training centre in Laverton.  They specialise in civil construction, transport and warehouse training.  There are paddocks out the back for excavator training and a in-house warehouse setup for forklift and warehouse operations.  It is a pretty slick operation and fortunately on my way to work.  
Once he completes the two practical days on the forklift and order picker scheduled for later in the month, Tom will have:
    • Nationally accredited Certificate III in Warehousing Operations (TLI31610)
    • A Forklift Licence
    • A Order Picker Licence (Melbourne Metropolitan Areas Only)
He will be certified as having the following skills and knowledge:
  • Communication techniques
  • Customer Service skills
  • Teamwork
  • Receival and Storage
  • Occupational Health and Safety  (Oh boy, employers had better follow the rules on this one)
  • Inventory Management
  • Dispatch
  • Quality Control
  • Forklift Operation
  • Order Picker Operation (Melbourne Metropolitan Areas Only)
  • Industry Knowledge
  • Legislation  

We used the course notes for his tutoring lessons for the last six months and so he breezed through the theory. Thank you Lynette.  The trainer even asked me to talk to him about answering all the questions and to give someone else a go.  Tom said he was helping them.  It was truly an experience for him.  He was mixing with lots of people from different races and backgrounds.  I can honestly say he was the only privately schooled Anglo in the course.  Do you know what i am getting at?  Definitely a culture shock and learning experience. Goodness, listening to some of their conversations on pick up was quite blue, including the women. I had to laugh as they stood under a large sign that said No Smoking chuffing away.  Tom didn't seem upset or phased by it and was friendly with everyone.  Many people that are on welfare are forced into training and pick warehousing as being "easy".  Its not and the drop out rate saw Tom being only one of 10 that finished.  They started near 30.  Tom was irritated by those that were not serious about the training and he was quite angry when i picked him up several times for their "time wasting".  It took some talking to keep him going.  He kept telling me "its just common sense, Mum".  He thought they asked stupid questions and mucked around. His main complaint was the inconsistency in the course material.  He thought it was written or prepared by someone who just downloaded information from Wikipedia and not someone from the industry.  The trainer agreed with him. This adherence to "his" perception of how things should be is what causes many people to walk/run away.   He's not interested in anyone else's point of view. Its an Aspie thing. On the last day, after Tom shared the break-up cake he took in, he was allowed to leave early. He had completed all the written requirements ahead of the others.

Tom has a dream.   He wants to live in America and drive forklifts.  Yes, i know there are a few inconsistencies in this dream, like not being independent and not leaving the house!  He has smaller goals of first working as a forklift driver in a local distribution centre.  We are surrounded by them.  He then wants to work on the docks.  They earn big bucks and so he thinks that since he lives at home he will be able to save enough to go to America (the land of opportunity and freedom) in just a few years.  I know.  You don't have to tell me. He has an unreal view of reality and doesn't understand that the problems we have here in Oz are only magnified in the US given the much larger population. If he thinks our government is bad... whoa! I don't think ill be able to dissuade him and so its just a matter of dealing with the next step, getting through that and then waiting for maturity and life experience to kick in.

His first priority is to complete his licenses, and to get some practical experience. Anyone out there willing to give him some. All jobs for forklift drivers want 3-5 years experience and yet how do you get that experience.  Tom really believes that somehow, magically, that he will get a job just driving forklifts.  He doesn't want to work as a general hand or a pick packer.  Our Prod Manager at my work is willing to set up some practise on weekends in the hard stand area out the back.   His next major task is to improve his health and to get his drivers license.  He is quite motivated so I think i'm up for a bit of extra driving in the next month.

We are also booked in to do a two day First Aid Course this month, together.  I don't think he would do it on his own and so i'm doing it with him. Not because he doesn't want to but because it would be another new place, new people, new anxiety etc.  Turns out my work needed someone to be newly trained and so it worked out win win.  I believe that having additional qualifications will only benefit Tom in applying for work. He has a few negatives to overcome and so he needs to present as being a great choice.  If he already has OH&S knowledge, licenses and First Aid then i think that makes him a better choice than a school leaver or someone who has just done the course because they had to.

So, a big week for all of us.   I have been driving him to the course, going to work, leaving at 3 to pick him up and take him home, going back to work and then working extra hours to make up my time away for five whole weeks.  I'm exhausted but Tom couldn't deal with going on the bus or train with strangers.  I know, i know, i know.  My main focus was helping him through the course and so he has.  Well done Tom.

Thanks for Visiting Living In The Land of Oz


  1. well done Tom, big steps for him. He is lucky to have such a great mother to cheer him on at every step. I hope he gets the break to get out into the working world.

    1. I hope when he gets a job he goes each day and doesnt start telling everyone how to do their job. LOL Its not going to be easy Im praying for a boss or supervisor that will take on a mentoring role.

  2. 18 wow! Happy birthday! Sounds like you are doing all the right things to keep pushing him forward! Great job mama! Tell him that America is an awesome country, but not all it's cracked up to be. We've got issues Lol.

    1. Yes it is awesome in so many ways but yes, there are also "some" issues. LOL

  3. Yes, well done to your Tom, Lynda. I can relate to what you have gone through during the five weeks and understand perfectly. I hope you have had a chance to relax this weekend and unwind.

    1. Yes, its good to know im not alone. Special kids take extra effort but goodness, its worth it. Quick to temper but a lovely young man.

  4. First a Big Happy Birthday to Tom we hope you had a awesome day. Lynda you are such a super Mum. Wow thats fantastic news completing this course Tom, and then doing a first aid course, jeepers I have to do a first aid course I should of enrolled with you guys.
    That cake looks divine, India was drooling , did you make it?
    The big 18 pretty scary stuff.
    I still think we live in a beautiful country xx

  5. happy belated birthday tom! well done on getting through the course!
    isn't australia also the land of opportunity & freedom, even more so than america?
    though travelling is a good eye opener & they get to see how others live too, he probably has made many friends over there through his gaming & is probably more the reason he wants to go there & with his determination he'll probably make it too. good luck!
    quite a few of my childrens friends have various types of aspergers too.
    thanx for sharing

    1. Yes, i agree with everyone. Australia is awesome, amazing, fantastic and in my opinion the best country in the world. Tom just cant see it. Travel is how we are going to deal with this issue. We discussed his having to do independent travel in Australia first before going anywhere. At the moment he rarely leaves the house so im not too worried about any of this. He is certainly not independent.

      He does occassionally play with kids online but they always fall short of his expectation. He is a very generous player and likes team work etc but when he declares himself a "friendly" more often than not they shoot him. He is happy to share within a game and for him the game play is more important than who wins or loses. Like i said, he is very mature in many ways. The best way i can describe it is that he prefers to volley rather and serve aces (tennis). He would make a great gaming partner.

  6. Hey Lynda honey, you are clearly one proud and terrified mama! I have much fellow feeling for you:) Having children at the age of independence is both scary and thrilling, isn't it. Currently my own Tom is doing the exact same job that your Tom is training for. My Tom will be going back to uni later this year, but the skills he has picked up driving a forklift and helping to run a warehouse will stand him in good stead for a part time job wherever he goes. I do think it is a great area to start off in, so kudos to Tom, and all the best for his future. It sounds like you are being immensely supportive and finding all the avenues you can to help him into an independent life, and I am sure he will find his niche with all that love and encouragement behind him xx

    1. Jo, how did your Tom get his experience? Where does he work?

    2. He got his experience on the job, which he got through his dad pulling the strings of the old boy's network.. it truly is who you know.. having said that, Tom is a very responsible, hard worker, and his dad would never have recommended him if he had not thought he was up to the job.
      My daughter, who is 18, got her gap year job by me asking everyone I know if they had any openings for a responsible 18yo willing to do anything. When my son was at uni (the first time..) it took a year for him to find a part time job, and eventually that happened via a recommendation from a friend as well.
      Most people are much more willing to hire someone who comes with a recommendation, so I think the trick is to get the word out as far and wide as you can, and do what you are doing with him in the meantime - upskilling. Volunteering would also help - it would give him a work reference. All the best. It may take some time, but with all the work you are both putting in, eventually it will pay off:)

  7. Things might seem hard now but I'm here to tell you it can be done,our son did an apprenticeship after working two years as a assistant,it starts at centre-link yes I know but we sucked it up,he had to qualify for disablity allowance from there you find the best employment agency for people with learning disablity's you can we had a waiting list.Most people leave it to them but we got involved meet his aid and because he didn't like going to their office made our home a meeting place for every thing,hope this helps. Josy

    1. Thank you Josy. We do have an agency and yes, Tom hates going there. Im not sure they would be so accommodating and visit our home. They havent done much so far, ive pushed all the way dealing direct with training people. We have appointment shortly and so we will see how they go. I dont want to go on disability allowance. He is registered with Centrelink so that he could go to WISE (disability agency) but we have not gone down the allowance route. If he has money of his own, he wont be motivated to work and i want him to be.

  8. Woven Circle is my daughters address,no idea how to change it......

  9. Wow what a lot you have going on. I guess if Tom goes to the US it will all be ok as long as he has a return ticket.

  10. A belated happy birthday to Tom! Such a great post, Lynda, I really felt like I got to know him well. We do have forklift driving positions in the US, but I'm afraid you're right about the rest. We live only under a guise of freedom. Still, a lot can happen between now and then, for Tom. Wishing you all only the very best.


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