I have been thinking and reflecting a great deal about the years of raising my eldest son who has Down syndrome and getting ready to graduate in a few weeks. There has been an increase in the activities and events to celebrate this momentous milestone with Proms, and senior class trips, graduation parties and of course, the graduation ceremony itself.
The closure to this period in his life brings forth a myriad of feelings and emotions and while it’s a happy time, it is also a bit scary and unsettling for me. I am pleased and extremely grateful to all the teachers, therapist, assistant teachers, principals, lunch room aides, bus drivers and aides, and anyone I’ve missed that has supported my son and helped him grow from the little infant he was at 3 months old when he started receiving early intervention services to the 21 year old young man he has become. It has been a lot of work to get him here. He has grown so much! I am forever grateful from the bottom of my heart. It was costly, it was hard work, it was a team effort, but it was worth all of it! I am grateful to live in a country as ours that places value on the lives of persons with disabilities to become all they can become. I look at him now and he is still growing, learning and maturing as a person. Aren’t we all?
While my son is now 21, I still look at him, as I did when he was an infant, and wonder what he will be like in 20 years. This next phase in life for him brings continued learning on our part, as parents. We have to once again learn what services and supports exist for him and how to navigate the adult system of care. Things do not seem to be as clear and mapped out here in our state of NJ. But, I am honestly really tired now. I have spent nearly half of my life advocating for, and seeking and learning about services and supports to help our son and family. I am hopeful, as with so many other parents at this fork in the journey, that as we enter the door to the DDD/DVR systems, they will provide the nurturing care and support of his continued growth as a man.