Thursday, March 15, 2012

My Plan C

I always thought my son’s autism would go away by the time he turned 8.  James has been getting therapy since he was 21 months.  He is considered “high functioning.”  All he needs is a few thousand hours of therapy to fix him right up and then I can go back to the life I was meant to have. 

That was my Plan B when my Plan A of having a typical life from the start didn’t work out.
Now that James is 8 ½, I’ve moved that timeline to age 16.  Puberty would have come and gone.  He’d have another few thousand hours of special needs schooling and therapy.  We should all be fine by then.

But since Plan B is taking longer to achieve than I thought, I’ve started to put Plan C into effect.  Plan C can be a little fun.  With Plan C, I get to go to H&M, American Eagle, and Forever 21 with my teenage niece.  I get to buy Starbucks gift cards, costume jewelry, and Ugg slippers.  I’m a cool aunt.
You see, my niece is my Plan C and the clothes, gift cards, and slippers are for her.  It’s not a bribe.  I love the girl to pieces and would be indulging her no matter what. 

But when I look at her, I see more than a sweet niece.  I see a budding grownup who can manage a special needs trust or who will invite my son over for Thanksgiving.
Up until recently, I felt silly and even a little pathetic about my Plan C.   My niece is 18 and right now her so-called “cares” in the world center on boyfriends, tests, whether she has pocket money for a frappuccino, and probably some things that I don’t want to know about it. 

But last weekend I attended a workshop at our local Y on financial planning for your special needs child.  Until now, we’ve have no plan in place for James (because autism was supposed to go away).
However, with Plan B on hold, it seemed prudent to check it out or at least as Donald put it, “have the 'what-if-I-die-tomorrow' plan.”

There were six other parents at the workshop with kids of different special needs and ages and they all shared my concerns – who will watch our kids when we’re gone. 
Like me, most were worried that relatives weren’t the right people for the task.  And assuming we live to a ripe old age, even relatives who are ready and willing would be just as ripe. 

I joked about praying that my niece didn’t move to the other side of the country.  Others laughed and chimed in with similar stories about younger underage relatives who they were grooming for the job. 
One woman admitted she was thinking of having another child just to make sure there was someone there for her son.  One father revealed that he can’t stand his sister but always has his nephews over for sleepovers because he wants them to love his son.  As one parent said, “Hey, it’s what we do.”

I didn’t leave with a financial plan, but I left feeling better about Plan C and not as alone.  The financial planning is coming along.  But right now, I’ve got other things to do.  H&M is having a sale and I gotta go pick up something for my niece….

5 comments:

  1. BRILLIANT! I love plan C. Running through a mental checklist of young relatives as we speak. AND you get to shop, get mani/pedis and enjoy frappuccinos guilt-free since it's an investment in your son's future!

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    1. Thanks! Hopefully my niece will see it as a win-win too. It's kind of like those tee-shirts that say "Oh my God, I forgot to get married!" only mine will be "Oh my God, I forgot to tell my niece that she will be my son's caregiver!"

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  2. I love your honesty. I love your plan C

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