Friday, April 14, 2017
I admire my mother in law for some of the things she did when Bil, her autistic son, was younger. Bil is in his late 50's, and back "then", children with developmental disabilities were scorned by society. Parents were encouraged to institutionalize them.
Bil was never institutionalized. And he was included in family gatherings. He was never hidden away.
But, as protective and loving as my mother in law was, there were also things she did that didn't encourage her son to develop. Nor did she (or her husband, while he was still alive) do anything to find a home for him where he could live when she could no longer care for him. In fact, she turned down several opportunities for decent placements in the past few years..
Now, this job has fallen on my husband, Bil's guardian, Bil's other brother, and their wives. We are all older than Bil, and chances are, he will outlive all of us.
If Bil had been a girl, things may have been different. But my mother in law grew up in a world where men did not do household chores and she was socialized into that world. As a result, Bil can barely make a bed, fold towels the way she wants, or do other things that would help her out tremendously as she struggles with increasing mobility issues and injuries (including an arm injury) from past falls. Why? Because he could not do it to her standards.
We've seen this happen, especially recently, when she's needed his help.
He can take out garbage (when prompted). He can carry groceries (when prompted). At one point we taught him to use the microwave, but she hasn't encouraged him to maintain and build on that skill.
So, in a way, this has come back to hurt her, too. It's hard for Bil to learn when he isn't given the opportunity. It is hard for him to learn when he is not encouraged to be helpful.
Some years ago, Bil's other brother and his wife spent a lot of time trying to teach Bil skills he will need if he is to live in the way that he wants to live. We've done some of that, too. It's an interesting process.
As one example, Bil learned to use a key where he used to live. But when he moved to where he lives now, he had to be shown all over again. His problem solving skills are impaired, and, when you think about it, no two keys work exactly the same. He won't try to figure it out, though-he will just stand there and wait for someone to show him. Learned helplessness?
We have to keep reminding him to bring his wallet when he goes somewhere so that he will have ID with him.
Now, it finally appears we may have some help with teaching Bil skills he would need to increase his independence, but how it will turn out we don't know. Perhaps, with someone not a family member, he will finally start to develop skills he will need in "life after his mother".
Learning and teaching both will be a continued challenge.