Autism Spectrum


leaving school and leading your own life

My Son at Age 23 – By a Melbourne Dad

Here’s a post by the dad of a young man from Melbourne.  Dad explains his son’s background and then how his life is going today. He ends with his thoughts on what the NDIS may bring. Thank you, Mr T.,  for contributing to Autism Launchpad.



My son J is 23 and was diagnosed by age 3.5 as being on the ASD spectrum with intellectual disability.

J did early intervention Irabina and then an ASD specialist SDS. This transformed him from a nonverbal boy with significant ADHD tendencies to a more focused and verbal adolescent.

J continued his education in a special school and an ASD specialist high school. J completed high school and went on to complete Certs 1 and 2 at TAFE. He is currently working under a supported wage system in a café.


What J Does In His Daily Life

J travels independently and manages his own finances in most instances; he has a mobile phone and has his own credit cards. J is verbal and has particular interests in motor cars, sports (footy and rugby league), cooking, and surfing the internet.

Physically, J appears and acts just like any 23 year old. J can order his own meals and can organise his day even with last minute changes. J also plays all abilities basketball weekly and in the weekend he joins me for an hour of squash with a few other regulars at our local pokies club with squash facilities.

J is not at all troubled or affected by noise. He will happily attend footy and soccer games and revel in the crowd. He travels well in peak hour public transport and even the café can be noisy. Although it has been noted, J hears everything and takes all the gossip and jokes literally which has led to some humorous moments.

J is not at all fazed when plans are changed as they constantly happen in a café. However, it helps to alleviate tension and anxiety if major changes are discussed with people he trusts. So when a key person is away from the café (the owner or chef), then prior discussion usually results in a smooth transition.

J frequently changes from trains to buses to travel to his destination when the preferred mode of transport is not available.


J’s Social Life

Recently, J contacted two of our family friends to organise catch up and coffee on his own initiative. This involved calling the person, organising time and place and then actually meeting them – all done without our knowledge.

Socially, J organises birthdays and anniversary celebrations. J looks forward to and attends dinners organised for the staff in his café at least once a quarter. The staff and community around the café all like him and regularly involve him in their activities. 

J organised himself to meet and take selfies with celebrities. Within the last 6 months, J went into a shopping centre, entered and won a quiz to meet Kei Nishikori. We only knew about it when we saw his post in Instagram. J also took himself to the opening ceremony of a shopping centre to meet TV presenter Lauren Philips.


Getting Things Organised

Finally, executive function is something J appears to be exercising. Recently, J had a couple of days off to relieve stress and anxiety, J appears to enjoy the time off and indicated to me that he wanted to take more time off. I replied, stating that if J wanted to keep his job, he needed to show responsibility which also means regular attendance.

J then thought about it and came back one day later and stated that he will take one day off every six months – a very sensible answer!

J is also full of initiative and constantly takes charge to make appointment and bookings. These include doctor, hairdressers, and restaurants, and if I don’t stop him, flight tickets and holidays.

Perhaps due to his lack of understanding of social etiquette, J will introduce himself to almost everyone and ask for whatever is on his mind at that time – this may be selfies or autographs – NO FEAR!

It’s not all roses. J is literal and asking him to look for missing items is a challenge. J will answer a ringing phone but will fail to deliver the message to the person concerned. J reads the headlines but fails to understand the intent and purpose of newspaper articles.

On the other hand, all appointments and reminders are in J’s head and so pickups, drop-offs, customer preferences don’t need to be recorded on the smart phone – it’s all in his head and J is always at hand to remind you of what is coming up.


The Future

The NDIS has not rolled out in Melbourne South East as yet. J and I  am planning to set the following objectives:

  1. Community access – weekend sporting viewing 
  2. Independent living assistance – planning for him to live independently. Perhaps someone visiting him one hour daily at first then three times a week later. He can cook but will need someone to plan his meals.


Thanks, Mr T, for sharing with us these insights into the life of your son at 23 years old.

Reading about how other families are doing is of great help to others. Your story is much appreciated.


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