Day #20, of this series on my brother, touches on the topic of transition. As a special education teacher I saw many students and their parents struggle with the transition from high school to life after high school and the “what next” question.
I think a challenging thing about having a child with special needs is as the child gets older the gap between their peers vs. their abilities widens in many ways. Differences that once were not so noticeable often become more noticeable. When you are looking at your adorable three year old who has special needs, you probably aren’t thinking much about where they will work or live after they complete their schooling.
My advice to parents, coming from an educational and sibling point of view, is to put your child on numerous waiting lists for housing and programs long before they may need them. For example, many group homes or assisted living facilities (that are highly desired situations) have a 10 year waiting list, some much longer than that. So, think ahead; way ahead in this regard. You can always say “no thank you” when the time comes, but at least you have options.
A word about early intervention: I can imagine it is quite difficult to come to terms with your child’s disability, but please get the support you need, and seek early intervention. There is so much out there to help your child and so much support out there for you too. Be honest with your loved ones about the situation and how you are feeling and your needs/desires. I have had some awkward conversations with loved ones before, asking if they thought their child might have some special needs. I am not an expert, and maybe I read into things too much, but I do have some experience. I guess my approach has been, I would rather have it be a bit uncomfortable if it means the child and family will get the help and support they need. In fact, at my mother’s prompting I had one of our sons tested for speech. It was a bit hard, but it was a good thing to explore. I needed to put my pride aside, and just admit that he might have an issue, for his sake.
Now back to post-school transition….there may come a sweet spot when your grown child’s desire to be more independent merges with a good housing (or job or placement) option….that is what happened for my brother at least. He had often talked about living on his own or with roommates. He wanted to move out like we had, although he loved living at home too.
My parents researched many options, but the right situation never seemed to surface. My brother needed a group home type of situation, where he had semi-independence but also had people there to make sure he took his medication, did his laundry, etc. At just the right time, God orchestrated an opening in a nearby group home. We are so grateful that Brian is able to have more independence and be with his peers on a regular basis. It is really a miracle how it all worked out.
From my observation and inquiry, the first few weeks were especially hard for my parents; understandably so. For 30+ years Brian had been there…I think one of them said it felt like someone had died. There was definitely a sense of loss and time of adjustment, and of course, wondering how he was really feeling about everything and if it was the best decision, etc. But now, as everyone has settled into their new normal, it really has been going well. Brian comes home almost every weekend and then is at “his place” during the week.
As this move/change was happening a doctor told my parents that is was great that this transition was happening now; when there wasn’t a crisis (like a parent dying or because of some other tragedy or necessity). It gives all of us peace of mind to know that Brian is in a good place and seems happy with his situation.
One of my sons says that he is going to live in a group home after he is done with school.:)
Deep Breaths: Each season contains different kinds of beauty. We may miss some things about the past season but there will be good, different things in the coming season too. Hang in there. I am so glad that we have a faithful God, the Creator, who made the seasons and is ready and available to walk with us through each one.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…”