Our non – identical twins have turned 18. While looking very non identical and being very dissimilar in so many ways, they both have autism. They were diagnosed the same day.
If there are ‘types’ of autism, they have the same ‘type’ which means that they both have high non verbal IQ levels probably above average, no learning disability as such but severe language disorder which means their language lies within the bottom 5 percentile.
They can mix well socially now due to many years of ABA therapy from when they were diagnosed at just 3, so although they had quite severe behaviours then, they no longer have many behaviours which distinguish them from others. They are of course very delayed in comparison to their peers and are still mostly unable to look after themselves.
At 18, they have never had girlfriends or kissed a girl ( I say girlfriends because I think their sexual orientation is towards girls ) but they have never had the opportunity to approach girls in that way. They have never been left alone at home and don’t take themselves out and about.They understand money but wouldn’t be able to go shopping and choose and buy clothes for themselves so until now, their lives have been quite safe and managed by us.
But…suddenly they are adults. So we have been challenged. At 7.30 am yesterday T declared to his Dad that he would not be coming home in the taxi from school the next day as he could now travel home alone on the train as he is ‘an adult now’. He is very rigid and there is no room for manouevre so we had to leave that one until we could talk to him once he calmed down. Then yesterday afternoon, I got a call from his school to discuss how he now wants to go out every lunch and break time alone in the streets around his central London school. Again, he lost his temper and no one could talk to him until he had calmed down.
He has also ‘declared’ that he no longer needs carers to take him out in the holidays as he will spend his days running. While an hour a day running might be good to aim for, full days may not be.
His twin, B, meanwhile is happy to continue going to school in the taxi but has decided he will holiday and travel alone in England visiting steam railways, his passion.
On a lighter note, he wants to know how it feels to be drunk and thinks he would like to try this out safely at home. Last year on holiday, he refused all alcohol as he was scared of what it might do to him. So, actually I think this is quite a positive step forward and a very mature attitude to alcohol but it’s only because of his anxiety and not because of his emotional maturity.
So, nothing has changed but everything has changed as far as the boys are concerned and it’s hard work for us at the moment trying to explain why they can’t do the things they think they should be able or allowed to do. But, it’s so positive that they want to grow up and not be dependent and we will work on that independence in small stages like we have spent their lives doing but not in one great leap on the day that they turned 18.