Today was the first Sunday to put into practice new arrangements for seeing Adrian. Adrian is our forty something adult son with autism. He lives in a group home that looks after him very well. It is operated by a Jewish organization, Tamir. We are very happy with how they look after him, and enjoy the staff members we meet whenever we go to see him.
It has been our practice until now to pick him up at his home at 2 00 pm most Sundays and return him there at 7 00 pm. Several years ago Adrian was "dually diagnosed", that is in addition to his autism diagnosis he was diagnosed as having mental problems: depression and psychoses. With this dual diagnosis, Adrian could erupt at any time, stomp his feet, bang his head on the floor, do other self-injurious acts, and attack us and attempt to bite us. Every week, as the time drew closer to pick up Adrian, our anxiety would grow. And we would be on edge for the five hours of each visit. Even on days without incidents, decompression time was needed following a visit.
Christmas 2102 was a tipping point in having Adrian at our home. As in the past Adrian came to stay with us for three nights and four days. On Christmas Eve, a head-banging episode coupled with an attempt made by him to bite me lead us to say, "We must re-evaluate our arrangements for visiting with him."
We set up a meeting with staff from Tamir to discuss our stresses and our concerns. This meeting was held in mid-January. Staff members fully understood our apprehension and anxiety. They fully supported our need for change. By the end of the meeting we had an agreement to start a new arrangement in February. Today was the first day of the new arrangement.
In this arrangement we meet with Adrian for two hours most Sundays. On the Friday before a proposed meeting, we email the staff at Tamir with a proposed itinerary for the following Sunday. In that itinerary we give Adrian a choice of two places for us to go out for lunch with him, accompanied by us and one of the Tamir staff. We pay for the lunch for all. Then we go and take part in an activity designated by us. The lunch outing begins with us picking Adrian and a staff member up at his home at 1 00 pm, and returning them there at around 3 00 pm.
Adrian is given a copy of our email so he has two days to assimilate its content. This strategy builds on his autistic needs, while the hard copy he is given gives him that surety that this is what will happen.
On Friday of this week he was given the choice go lunch at Red Lobster or Harvie's, with an outing to Value Village to spend his monthly $20.00. He chose Red Lobster. Festus was the staff member that accompanied him with us.
The outing went well. Our stress levels were much lower, but still present. And we learned a lot about Festus, born and raised in Sierra Leone in a very English style boarding school. He even learned to play cricket!
Given today's experiences, we will look forward to our Sundays with Adrian so much more.