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.
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.
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