The Adventures Of Fatherhood – November 18, 2022

Boarding school’s impact on Beckett has been profound.

As far as we can tell from our 14-year-old boy, three months in, he likes his school and just about everything about it. The biggest immediate impression – one we were told would be the case – is his independence. Boarding school forces maturation on high school kids and it’s expected to be a journey full of wins and losses.

Most high school kids – especially freshmen like Beckett — need their parents to ensure they are up and ready for school. At our house, Beckett was known most morning for sleeping through his alarm, relying mostly on Pam or me to ensure he’s up and showered before it’s time for school. We had to micromanage him to keep on track. At boarding school, it’s on him and his team of supportive adults and peers.

Beckett’s days are busy with school and activities, including traveling to Richmond Monday night with his entire school for the varsity boys soccer’s team championship game. As a freshman, he’s on junior varsity, but he practiced a lot with the varsity players. He was invested in it for sure. From the live YouTube of the game, we were able to see his full head of hair running onto the field with his entire school to celebrate the win. It was a memorable night for him.

Later, we were talking about it (through text, of course), and the game and the playoff run seemed to have a huge impact on him. He said his goal is to make varsity as a sophomore and he would rather train with a soccer coach this summer than work. I told him let’s put a pin in that for now.

Over the course of the last week, his long Thanksgiving break – 12 days because of the international aspect of boarding school and traveling – has been much on his mind. He has been really excited to come home. He was full of so much eagerness he wanted to skip his first basketball JV scrimmage so he could come a day early. We advised against that, reminding him of his commitment.

Along with the inevitable maturing he has been experiencing, my biggest takeaway with Beckett now is how much he appreciates his home. This is a great change because he doesn’t take it for granted any longer. I think above all it’s his privacy he values most followed by his favorite meals and then his family.

During my last pickup in mid-October, one of Beckett’s teachers told me how much he talks about his little brother and how much he missed him. It was great to hear, and I just ignored the whole part about his parents being left out.

Puberty in and of itself is a challenging ride for parents and kids. Throw in Autism and the ride feels like a roller coaster with a blindfold on.

After reading far too many articles that literally scare me, the conclusion is puberty and autism is going to be a challenging ride. A feeling of being powerless comes to mind.

There’s nothing simple about raising a special needs kid. Even during periods of level behaviors and general calm there are deep concerns about the future. However, while cognizant of the days ahead, we follow Carson’s lead and take things each day as they come. Celebrate and cheer him on the good days and move ahead and encourage and support him through the bad days.

Over the last six months, Carson’s body has been changing fast. Photos confirm this beyond what our eyes observe. He’s getting big. He has acne. His hair sticks straight up. He seems to be moodier than in the past. Did I mention he is getting big? He’s taller than his mom and his shoulders are broad. The physical changes are obvious, but it’s what lies beneath with the psychological bringing the most concern.

Almost all the literature suggests school will become more challenging than ever when puberty mixes with Autism. An article, “Puberty and autism: An unexplored transition,” in Spectrum magazine recently tackled the topic of puberty and autism. It brought up numerous issues that frankly scared me. I had to break the lengthy article into multiple sections because some of the findings were frightening.

An excerpt read, “Puberty can be an extra-fraught time for young people on the spectrum. The features that define autism — including sensory and emotional issues, repetitive behaviors and missing social nuance — can make it hard for them to cope as they mature sexually and become more interested in friendships and dating. … Depression, anxiety and eating disorders are unusually prevalent in autistic adolescents: One 2006 study showed that 72 percent of 109 autistic youth had depression, anxiety or another mental health condition. By comparison, a 2016 survey of more than 50,000 children and adolescents suggests that less than 20 percent have a mental health condition.”

It was an excellent article full of data and studies. But ultimately, it concluded, “researchers are just beginning to learn what happens in the brains of autistic children during adolescence to explain their unique social, cognitive and emotional challenges.”

Though concerned, I find peace in knowing where we have been with our journey with Carson. The bumps have been numerous. The lowlights have left meaningful scars. Though, there have been an ocean of achievements and wins as well. For me, I stick with the mantra, “hope for the best, expect the worst, pray for peace.”

About The Author: Steven Green

Alternative Text

The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.