Article originally published by DFWThrive here

By Kelley Wooley


“I assumed Riley would live with us forever,” says mom Davila Niesen.

Since her son was a baby, Niesen and her husband Robert knew that something was “off.”

“For a long time, we just kept being told that he had global development delays,” Niesen explains.

Finally, when Riley was 8 years old (the earliest age allowed at the time), he had testing done through Plano Independent School District. His vocabulary was very limited, which made testing all the more difficult. Results revealed an extremely low IQ and a likely diagnosis of autism.

“We heard the words but as parents, we had no idea what they really meant,” recalls Niesen. “The results gave us some answers but Riley’s future was still very unclear.”

The future often looks nebulous for children like Riley. For parents, just the thought of planning for their kid’s transition to adulthood can inspire a panic attack. Will they be able to live independently? Where will they live once we’re gone? Who will take care of them?

So many questions and often so few answers—or, as in the Niesens’ case, only one answer that seems possible: Caring for their child at home for the rest of their lives.

But almost 15 years after Riley’s diagnosis, his future looks much different than his mom originally envisioned. He will soon move into Daymark Living, a new residential community in Waxahachie for adults with special needs.

Such a community is not an option for every family, and deciding a child’s future, and preparing them for it, is not easy. But when it comes to that ever-pressing question—What’s next?—parents should feel reassured that there are so many more living and employment options available to adults with special needs than existed when Niesen first started thinking about her son’s future.