It’s official! The boy turned 16 this week. I remember when he was 6, 7, 8 and extremely hyperactive and literally had boundless energy. I was exhausted. I couldn’t imagine this boy at 16. I didn’t know how to imagine his future, it was too far away and too scary, frankly. That kind but wild little Tigger as a teen? Oh no, the two together just didn’t compute. It was painful to even consider. All I could think about was just trying to get through each day, one moment at a time. That’s where we started.

So much has changed since my son was diagnosed with ADHD (10 years ago) and “high-functioning” autism (4 years ago). He has completely changed, inside and out. Not only is he now the definition of “man-child” at 5’9″ and 200 lbs., but he’s really a different kid. His physical hyperactivity has waned. He’s a bit more carefree. He has a group of what he calls “real friends,” and is better at reading body language, tone of voice, and social cues. He sometimes asks for my help when he’s emotional or angry. He’s learned some coping strategies and uses them frequently.

A (Bitter)Sweet 16: Adolescence with #ADHD and #Autism. It's hard, but we can (and should) rest on hope and optimism. Click To Tweet

He’s growing up, for sure, but he’s still more like a child than a teen in so many ways. That’s the bitter part of this sweet 16, he’s not a typical 16-year-old and he’s no where near ready to live independently. The contrast between him and his peers is still very striking. In my head, I know this is to be expected for a kid with developmental disabilities — like ADHD and autism — but my heart still worries a bit. I know he will get there. I know we’re doing everything we can to give him the opportunity to be a happy, successful adult. I am aware that it will just take more time for him to get there.

And so, we celebrate this kiddo with great pride, and I lean on my hope and optimism to start planning for adulthood, which is right around the corner.