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High School Graduation and the Beginning of Adult Life Bring Joy and Trepidation

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By Melinda Sacks

The Daily Struggle to Master Everyday Skills

Alex has had a part-time job since middle school.  He has had a bank account and money to spend on video games, electronic gadgets, pizza, and iTunes™ music. And spend his money he does.

In spite of the fact that we've harped on saving and shown him how to track his money online, he makes impulse buys that wipe out his account in a minute of excitement over the latest Xbox™ accessory or a new San Francisco Giants baseball cap.

Never was this impulsive spending quite so dramatic as the time Alex had to find a ride home from school because his father and I both had meetings. Alex finished his classes and decided that the taxi cab I suggested he call would be boring. Always inventive, he called a local car service and booked himself a limo, never asking the price.

As my husband arrived home after his meeting he witnessed a white stretch limo pull up in front of our house. Who should step out but Alex, grinning ear to ear - and seventy dollars poorer.

While we can laugh at his impulsivity, we are also painfully aware that such a blunder for a young adult living on his own could translate to being unable to make the monthly rent.

So we are looking for a teen money management class for Alex to take this summer, since our refrains about saving and thinking carefully about purchases continue to fall on deaf ears.

And these aren't the only areas of concern.

I've given up trying to get Alex into bed by 11 p.m. We say goodnight and fall asleep with the sounds of a basketball video game wafting from the living room. "I'm 18!" he responds when we say he'll be overtired again tomorrow.

Getting Alex to prepare his own food is another issue. We know he makes dinner when he babysits - warming up leftovers, baking a pizza, or scrambling eggs.  But at home he won't lift a finger except to scoop ice cream.

Alex's schedule is difficult to keep track of, because it varies from day to day. After saving up for a Palm Pilot organizer Alex was thrilled to add the sleek white electronic device to his Bluetooth cell phone earpiece and video iPod (all of which he paid for himself). But just a week after he got the Palm, he left it in his pocket; it went through the wash and was ruined.

Deflated, he lay in bed that night, telling me what a stupid son I had and how he could never do anything right.

Comments from readers

"Melinda: Thank you for sharing this wonderful, heart-felt, well-written article on your special guy, Alex. You have expressed my concerns exactly as I have a son the very same age and have the very same feelings as I know countless other parents do as well. As other parents of non-learning disordered children look forward to these days of emancipation with joy and hopefulness; parents of kids with disabilities of any kind look at things far less optimistically yet we, too have the right to feel hopeful. I suppose we approach their leaving home with 'cautious optimism' and pray for their safety, good choices, good health and happiness every day of their lives. It's hard to let go, but without doing so, we'll never know how high they can fly. You and your husband have lovingly helped build a solid foundation for Alex - a platform on which he will stand as he spreads his wings and heads off to what we all hope will be the future he dreams of for himself. And, from his obvious desire to 'give back' and to help others, it is clear that he derives much satisfaction in those special, 'little' things in life (those things that truly matter most when you get right down to it)! Maybe we can't expect 'great things' from our special sons and daughters, but we can certainly expect a life of happiness and when everything is said and done; that is a life well-lived. Thank you for sharing your heart and it's my prayer for Alex that he continues to thrive with his upcoming independence (which he will likely do) knowing that his loving and supportive parents are just a phone call (or a text message away)! "