Jacob’s Time Story

When Jacob was a child, it seemed as if his life was ruled by visual schedules. His teachers and his parents had charts everywhere with hook and loop stickers for picture icons. As he finished each task, such as brushing his teeth, he would move the picture of a toothbrush over to the “all done” column and go on to the next thing.

Jacob hated those charts.

Jacob hated those charts. He was relieved when they quit pushing them on him in middle school. School was so structured he always knew where to go, and when he got there the teachers would tell him what to do. At home, his mom would tell him when it was time to do something, which was fine with him.

Missed the bus!

Then one day, he missed the bus to school. His new alarm clock didn’t wake him, and when he finally got up, he went through his morning routine at his usual pace. He figured his mother would tell him to hurry if he really had to, but she hadn’t said anything. He was shocked to find he’d missed his bus. He threw down his backpack and yelled at his mom that she’d made him late and now she’d have to drive him to school. She said, “I don’t deserve to be yelled at. If you missed your bus, you can walk to school.” Then she got in her car and drove herself to work.

On his own.

Jacob was shocked. He couldn’t believe what had just happened. He angrily walked the mile and a half to school and had to get a tardy slip from the office before he could be admitted to class. Being late put off his routine and he was in a grumpy mood all day because of it.

When his mother got home, Jacob shouted at her about the rotten day he’d had and how it was all her fault, but she wouldn’t listen. She picked up her laptop and went to her room, telling him to let her know when he’d calmed down enough to talk without yelling at her.

Jacob played his video game for a while to cool off, but he couldn’t stop thinking about how different his mom was acting. Eventually, he turned off the game and knocked on her door quietly to say he was ready to talk. She told him her point of view, which he hadn’t considered.

His mother had been waking him up and rushing him through his morning to get to the bus on time since he had been in kindergarten, and now that he was a legal adult, she was done.

“But why didn’t you tell me?” Jacob asked.

“I did, don’t you remember?” He didn’t. “When we bought you the alarm clock, I said that I wouldn’t be waking you up and getting you ready for school any more. You can do that for yourself now. That’s why we bought the clock, remember?” Jacob vaguely remembered that she had been talking about something while they were shopping for the clock, but he was focused on finding one from his video game. He didn’t remember what she had said and realized now he should have paid attention. His mother went on, “I told you that from now on, it was up to you to get yourself up and ready, and if you were late, you would have to walk to school.”

Adult responsibilities

“Do you mean you’re not going to be my mom anymore?” he asked her.

“Of course not, I’ll always be your mom,” she said. “But now I’m a mom of an adult, not a little kid. As an adult, you need to get yourself up in the morning and get yourself ready in time to catch your bus. Going upstairs to shake you awake three times, and then reminding you to hurry and brush your teeth and hair and get out the door is not my idea of a good time.”

When she said it like that, Jacob realized it really didn’t sound like fun for her. He had never thought of his mother as a person who might not enjoy all the things she did for him. “Is it terrible being my mom?” he asked. “Has it been awful for you?”

“Not at all! I’ve always loved being your mom, and raising you has been a joy. But you’re eighteen years old now. It’s time for me to step back.”

“What if I can’t do it?” Jacob asked. “I was late this morning. What if I’m always late? I might get kicked out of school.”

“First off, you won’t get kicked out of school for being late, although they might want to talk to you about it if it happens too often. Just get up when your alarm clock goes off and get yourself ready and out the door. You know what to do.” Jacob realized she was right.

“Secondly,” she went on, “if you really need help, you can always ask me. I’ll always be here for you to help solve problems that come up when you need me, but I’m not going to insert myself into your problems if you don’t need me. You get to decide when you need help.”

“When you say you’ll help me, do you mean you’ll tell me to hurry if I need to?”

“No, we’re not going to go backwards to me treating you like a child again. But if you need help making sure your new alarm clock is set correctly, or if you need me to help you make a list of what needs to be done by certain times in the morning to be on time, I can help you get those things set up. Then it’s up to you, as an adult, to take it from there.”

That sounded reasonable to Jacob, and he decided he could manage his own mornings now that he understood that it was his job.

The next morning, Jacob over-slept again, but then he rushed through his morning routine double-speed and caught the bus just in time.

What went wrong?

That was twice his alarm clock didn’t wake him up. After a little investigation, Jacob figured out that he had set it for 6:00 PM instead of 6:00 AM. After that, Jacob rarely had problems, but when he did, he did some thinking to see what went wrong. Did he stay up too late the night before? Had his alarm clock come unplugged? Did he get distracted during his morning routine?

Jacob’s Time Solution

Jacob had an alarm clock now, and he knew how to use it. If there was a problem, whatever it was, he could figure out a solution, or ask for help if he got stuck. Taking charge of his own morning time management made Jacob feel like an adult. He liked the feeling.

Jacob’s stories originally appeared in the first edition of Wendela Whitcomb Marsh’s book, Independent Living with Autism: Your Roadmap to Success. (Revised as Independent Living While Autistic: Your Roadmap to Success, Book One of the Adulting While Autistic series.) Jacob is a fictional character, not based on anyone, so any similarities to real people are coincidental.



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