Note: This article was originally published in 2017
Living independently is something to which I believe everyone aspires. The freedom such independence promises is borderline intoxicating, especially to a young adult.
That said, independence is not something that comes as easily as one may think, and when you add an ASD to the mix, becoming independent can take on a whole new set of challenges.
Take me for example: I’m 20 years old. A year ago, I was barely able to get around the block in my neighborhood, much less travel around the city with confidence.
Now, I take public transit anywhere and everywhere. You could even go so far as saying that I enjoy sitting idly and watching the city pass me by on route to my destination.
A year ago, I was a 19-year-old high school graduate, struggling to find work.
Now, I’ve connected with the Career Centre in the Bayfield Mall, and I’m working with an Employment Consultant to achieve my goals. I’ve participated in a program called the Youth Job Connection program, and successfully completed the required 60 hours of pre-employment training. I’m now in the process of working with my Employment Consultant to find a job placement that will last for a maximum of 26 weeks.
A year ago, I could barely be trusted to turn on the oven, much less cook anything. My father was our household’s designated chef, and I relied on him to cook all of my meals.
Now, using a recipe book as a guide, I can make simple meals, and I’m learning more every time I step into the kitchen.
For a person with ASD, change can seem like the worst thing that could possibly happen. We crave structure and routine, and any deviation from that can throw us completely off our bearings. But, if I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that change is not always a bad thing.
As much as I may loathe it, I’ll admit that sometimes, change is necessary.
Because of the changes I’ve made in my life over the past year, I’m closer to independence than I’ve ever been. It hasn’t been easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.
The key is stepping out of your comfort zone. It could be something as simple as striking up a conversation with someone, offering to help cook a meal, or taking a walk every day.
These examples may seem insignificant, but as ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tsu said:
“The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”
Matthew J. Lemay is a writer and self-advocate. He began writing at the age of 15, and he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when he was 17. His work has previously been featured on the blog of Integrated Autism Consulting and in the pages of Autism Matters magazine. He is currently working on his debut novel.
When he’s not writing, Matthew can be found reading, listening to music, watching movies and TV, taking a walk, and spending time with his family. His creative influences include authors Eric Walters and Adam Silvera and renowned film director Hayao Miyazaki.
He currently resides in Barrie, Ontario.