David Letterman announced his retirement in April of 2014. Within a year, Jon Stewart decided to leave The Daily Show. Most families wouldn’t be altered by these events. But we are not most families. We are the incubator for the #AutismTalkShowHost and this not only had an impact on our daily lives—sadness, loss of routine, another of his mentors relegated to YouTube—but it affected our future planning.
In the last two years his teachers have been trying to prepare Henry for High School graduation. Bless them. They do this for every student that attends Access Charter School. The program is vocational focused, so from the time students enter the Middle School program, their academics are about job skills training. And many students are excited about the work they do and the companies that partner with the school.
Henry tolerates the work skills. On every ‘what do you want to do after you graduate’ questionnaire he writes, “Be a talk show host.” And because he actually does have the skills, and an outlet, we’ve factored some of those skills into his IEP. So, we work on things like asking questions and listening skills, but there isn’t a job training program locally for Autism Talk Show Host. There no internship for that.
And yes, he and I have developed a keynote that we do, where he performs a Top Ten List. But that’s not a daily job. He’s going to have to do something. So, the teachers and the family started the campaign. June 2018, you’re graduating from High School. Where do you want to work? What do you like to do? Do you like helping at Habitat for Humanity’s store or do you like prep work at Smokey Bones Restaurant better?
“No. Nothing. No.”
After David Letterman and Jon Stewart mentioned retiring, he changed his answer.
“June 2018. I’m going to retire.”
“Yep. No more school. No more OCA show. Retire. I’ll name my replacement.”
Those bastards. How dare they retire from being talk show hosts? How dare they implant the idea that when your run is done, you just step down. Jerks.
I admit it, I was angry. I’m not really sure why my response was to feel betrayed by two people I don't even know, but I did. I’d worked so hard, pushed him so hard, found the right school, did OT and PT and Speech after school. Sensory Integration Therapy. OCA after school program. Gluten Free baking for the GFCF diet. Special Olympics Bowling, Basketball and Soccer. Energy Work. Hiding krill oil and antioxidants in his yogurt. And this is how he repays me? By retiring before me?!
I let him know that David Letterman was in his sixties and that Jon Stewart was in his 50s and that was the age that people retired, after having WORKED for many years. And that he would not be retiring in June of 2018. Then I plucked a date out of the air, “You may retire in 2075.”
What followed was several weeks of heavy sighs and a new response to ‘How was your day?” “Siggggghhhhhh. 2075.”
And now we’ve arrived at his last year of school. He’s graduating in June. And I’m filling out paperwork and working with government agencies and steeling myself for a new way of life. While Henry seems blissfully unaware that life is going to change.
Until this weekend. We were at Granddad and Mimi’s house about to go swimming. Yes, global warmers, it’s November and the water in Orlando is just fine. When he jumps in he counts to three ala The Count (https://www.sesamestreet.org). And he does a little show related to the counting. This weekend’s show the script went like this:
#1 For counting to swim with Granddad and Alice. And Mimi.
#2 For my job for my disability for my work and my job.
(my dad and I held our breath. Did he just say he has a disability and he’s getting a job?)
#3 For my job. It’s for ideas for my job for working for my disability and for this year!
Did David Letterman’s recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s show help him lock in that life goes on after graduation? Did he read Vanity Fair and find out that both Letterman and Stewart have new shows? Did the message from school finally sink in?
I have no idea what flipped the switch. But here we are only in the first semester of his last year and there was joy and excitement about a job for his disability for his ideas.