Oh my gosh. My son just turned 29, and like yours, he didn’t get a diagnosis until he was 13. I had him when I was only 17. It seems that schools, counselors, and his dad (who I was separated from) were so insistent that his problems were somehow MY fault, that they didn’t even think about autism. Instead, like your experience, he was misdiagnosed with ADD and medicated throughout elementary (and most of middle) school. It’s a lot easier, from the school’s perspective, to just drug them up so they’ll sit quietly.
But once he got his diagnosis, it was like a huge weight off my shoulders. At last I had an explanation as to why he acted this way.
And though I wish he could have gotten the early childhood interventions he needed, he did manage. He graduated. He lives on his own. He has held down a job. You’re right — it does get easier. But after nearly 20 years of having to be his sole caregiver and provider, it’s not like I could just “start over” once he moved out. My career was a patchwork of whatever would pay the bills AND allow me to be home when he was off school (AKA the pink collar ghetto). And taking so much time off for therapist and doctor appointments, not to mention school crises, meant I couldn’t keep jobs for very long.
I think there needs to be more support to autistic people, to help them transition into adulthood, and even once they’re there. But there also needs to be more support for the parents of autistic kids. Especially the single ones. Caring for an autistic kid is often a full-time job, or more, depending on where they are on the spectrum.
Thank you so much for writing this!