My non-verbal, autistic teenager received a U.S. Marine Corps recruitment letter in the mail last week.
I didn’t see that one coming.
Sometimes I forget what other boys his age are doing. Most of the time, we’re too busy living this life to think about how others live. I’m in that zone of special needs parenting, focused on my only child, his interests and his needs. By design and habit, we’re fairly isolated from the “norm.”
I don’t usually have the time or energy to compare my son to other teenagers (or even to my own memories of life at 16). Those traditional adolescent rites of passage—first driving lessons (and driving mishaps), proms, graduations, college applications—those aren’t his thing, and most days, I’m OK with that.
I’ll admit that I felt a twinge of the “what if’s” the first time I saw the newest grocery baggers at our local store. These boys were once the “typical peers” in my son’s first grade class. They are weekly reminders of that first job milestone my son will be missing out on, for a while anyway.
In a way, this Marine Corps letter was another unexpected reminder of the life options my son can’t choose. But honestly, it just gave us a good laugh.
I imagined asking Uncle Sam to explain the top-secret military strategy that would involve a bead-spinning, pizza-crazed, Sesame-Street-singing soldier.
Special Ops, indeed.
(Sidenote: My son is still required to register with selective service at 18, so when/if there is a draft, that conversation will sure be interesting.)
No, my son won’t likely be driving, or going to college, or joining the Marine Corps.
But I take what I can from each little reminder that peeks around my autism-parent blinders. He carries an official state ID card, in lieu of a driver’s license. We’re planning a “spring fling” dance at his special needs school, and I’ll continue brainstorming about what a future job could look like for him. When we need extra motivation, we’ll borrow a little inspiration from the Marines, too.
We’re working on teaching him how to shout, “Ooh-Rah!”