By Roberta Dunn
When do you start preparing for your child’s life after school? Immediately!
Parents with adult children had shared with me that preparing for my son’s life after school should start while he was young, and that it was more work toward an attitudinal shift than it was initial skill building. I’d like to pay it forward and share what I learned.
Teaching Todd to unload the dishwasher as a function was one thing, but to teach him that when you belong to a family there are expectations that everyone help was much more important. Teaching Todd to do a task, like walking the dog, promoted independence, but greater than that was teaching him that the Strawberry Frappuccino he enjoyed cost money and that the money he earned walking the dog was money that he could spend if he chose to buy another.
The overarching attitudinal shift that needs to take place is for us to make sure that our children appreciate that experiencing disability doesn’t make them “special.” We’ve worked a lifetime to ensure that Todd appreciates that his experiencing disability is a natural part of who he is and that, though he might need additional support of one kind or another, the expectations we have for him differ little from those we have for his brothers: be honest, be kind, do your best at all you do, work hard, and be smart with your money.
If we don’t experience that last area of attitude shift we can be lulled into a belief (and instill in our children) that they are entitled to lives of ease and comfort, with little effort and low expectations. We become comfortable with a pie slice of a whole life afforded by “special” camps, day programs, and providers, and we deny our sons and daughters access to the whole pie (a whole life, in community).
When I ask Todd how his day at work went his reply is remarkably typical. He appreciates that black Friday and sporting events are busy days at work, that some days the walk home from the bus is wet and rainy, that it is gross when you get other people’s food on you while washing dishes. And he knows that the best day is pay day!!
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