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Parenting an Adult Child with Disabilities: Guest Post - Matt Wilson

Matt and I attended high school in New York together. When he saw the announcement about "Parenting an Adult Child with Disabilities" on Facebook, he commented on it. I like to get varied perspectives on "eSpecially Ben" and asked Matt to write about his son, Harrison. And it's always good to connect with a high school classmate.

My name is Matthew Wilson. I'm a divorced parent of two children. My 18-year-old son, Harrison or Harry, as we call him, was diagnosed at birth with agenesis of the corpus callosum:

Harry attends a special education school in Pennsylvania where his mother lives and spends the summers with me at my beach house in New York. He does well academically but struggles with math.

Recently, Harrison was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. Due to Harry's arthritis, he shuffles when he walks. He had surgery on his right leg a few years ago to correct the angle of his foot when he's standing. 

His mom and I make decisions together regarding his health and school. We've been discussing the possibility of Harry living with me more often. His mom's ailing health makes it hard for her to manage him. When he stays with me, I have rules and boundaries for him and he does well with them. 

Harry has so much potential. He's shown a lot of interest in fishing. I took him out on a friend's boat over the summer, and he caught his first keeper – a seabass. Harry was happy and excited. I'd never seen that side of him. To this day, he still gloats about his catch. It just goes to show with a little extra push, we can see these kinds of results. It gave both of us the feeling of a major accomplishment.

We fish two to three times a week at night down on the beach. A group of neighbors also fish and this is another opportunity for Harry to practice his social and communication skills. He gets excited when somebody catches something.  

People who meet Harry don't realize he's disabled right away. He lacks communication and social skills. He doesn't like to get involved in a conversation unless it's something that he's interested in talking about. 

Harry loves cars and recently he carried on a conversation with my brother for over an hour. I was in shock. They talked about cars the whole time. Harry was excited when my brother let him sit in his Corvette.

Harry loves to play video games. For several years that's all he ever did. When he's with me in the summer, I limit his gaming time. I want him to take full advantage of the beach. 

Last summer, I got Harry his first job as a dishwasher where I tend bar. I sat down with the chef and explained his situation. It was a home run. Harry learned how to earn a paycheck and did a good job in the kitchen. Yes, he was a little slow. He sat down and took breaks because of his arthritis, but he began to socialize. This was a giant step for him. I'm looking forward to this summer and continuing this progress.

"Parenting an Adult Child with Disabilities" is a series on eSpeciallyBen. As Ben approached 18, it was clear our role changed as parents. We needed to help Ben transition into adulthood. These stories are meant to assist other families who face, or will face, some of the same challenges.


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