Well…we did it! My son graduated from high school. It was such a huge milestone for him, and for me. Only another parent raising a child with developmental disabilities would fully appreciate the emotions evoked on this day. As I reflected on all the years of his educational career, and all the work that went into him, and the money and time devoted to his growth and development, I was overcome with feelings of appreciation. I appreciate all those who gave so much of themselves to help my son become all that he is today.
The advocacy and parenting continues as he moves into the adult system of care. My son has moved to a residential setting, a group home with 2 other young men. For me, it feels like he went to college. Getting him prepared for his new home and “independence” really felt like I was sending him off to college for the first time. The car was loaded with all of his stuff, and we set up his room and got him all settled in. It was a terrific experience and it felt good to let go, while knowing he’s still close by and I will be there for him, as always. It felt good to see him have his own space and his own life. This was the way he was going to be independent. I really saw him as a young man, as I kissed him goodbye and said I’ll see you next week. It felt great to feel confident that the staff would take good care of him and work on the life skills he continues to need to build and learn. It felt good that his housemates were his age and they were welcoming and embracing. It felt good to be able to breathe, after 21 years!
I am excited at my son’s prospects for having an enriched life moving forward. But during this time, I also realize how parents still need to stay on top of things, and keep abreast of the resources out there. This is an ongoing part of parenting an adult with special needs. This part really doesn’t ever end! When school ends for our kids, it’s even more important to establish and build relationships with the supports coordinators, and/or DDD case managers, to access supports needed for our adult children and ourselves. But, in all honesty, I think parents often learn more from one another. Word of mouth and sharing goes a long way….
While you may be tired and feel like the years of parent groups are past you -believe me, I’ve thought this too, participating in a parent group for adults with special needs will keep you connected and provide supports and linkages we continue to need well into adulthood. In fact, what I’ve realized is that it’s all about perspective! Maybe participating in a parent group might be a nice social outlet for you that you’ve been missing.
I have learned that this is how many of us get through... this is how we continue to learn and manage…this is how we make and build friendships, and sustain our wellness and resilience.