Dear Sam,

I'm having trouble knowing where to begin this year. I'm sure I've said it before, but this one feels different. Sixteen is such a milestone, and we are rapidly approaching your official transition from teen to young adult. When I think about it, I'm still in disbelief that we are here, and that you have made it for 16 years with me as your parent.

This birthday letter is quite late, not for the first time. I've had it on my list to finish for such a long time, but it just hasn't happened. So, it's probably going to be a bit shorter than usual, but hopefully it means next year's letter will be even better. I can dream, right?! 

10th grade was a challenge. Middle school went so well, and between online school and the difference in curriculum and structure and lots of other things in high school, the transition didn't go as smoothly as we would have liked. At the end of 10th grade, I contacted the school and they were really great. Our experience with all of the special ed teachers has been so good. They worked hard to get you back on an IEP to help you be successful in 11th and 12th grade as well as figuring out how to transition into grown-up world. By the end of the year it was in place, and you started 11th grade at Options in the fall.

It's so strange to be a parent to a 'kid' who is nearing adulthood. You're self-sufficient now in so many ways. You don't really socialize or go anywhere, you're a homebody. You love your routine and are happy sticking to it. It has been really interesting to me over this last year especially to think about your autism and how it manifests. I found this graphic somewhere, and it really helped me understand how people who are on 'the spectrum' can be so different and varied in how it shows up with them. I know there are some challenges we've faced, but there area also strengths in how you see/experience/process the world.

Embracing your autism is something that I haven't talked to you about that much, but that I want to help you to see is not a bad thing or something that has to hold you back. I want to provide you with the tools you'll need to succeed in life and manage things. But you're figuring it out! You are so pragmatic, you have emotions and still get upset when things seem unfair or when Danny's being a pill. But you also don't get as upset about things that are just how life goes sometimes. You see the reason and practicality in things in a way that I don't always, even as an adult.

You've become a bit more independent this year - you've discovered the joy of being home alone, and you've accepted a bit more requests from me for help around the house without protest. You are funny and smart and kind. Those are the things that matter. Everyone enjoys your company, Grandma, and now Kate. You're a cool guy to hang out with. I must be doing something right. 

Of course I still wonder how you'll fare when you're in the world on your own, and it seems like there's so little time now before that is an actual possibility! But I think in the end everything will work out. I love you immensely, in ways it's hard to describe.



Favorite Book: John Dies at the End series
Favorite Color: Black
Favorite Song: CG5, Taylor Swift, a lot of musicians who write/publish on YouTube
Favorite Board Game: Garbage (with regular playing cards), Uno Flip
Favorite Video Game:  Kingdom of Loathing
Favorite TV Show: Brooklyn 99
Favorite YouTubers: DougDoug maybe
Favorite Food:  Pizza, waffles, chicken nuggets, mac & cheese
Favorite Dessert: Cake
Favorite Thing to Do Outside the House:  Eat out!