Bringing businesses and people with disabilities together for the benefit of both. Communication Skills Training for PWDs, Disability Awareness Training for Businesses. Stories on disabilities and disability-friendly businesses, written by people with and without disabilities, aimed at giving you something valuable to learn.
Moving is a physical and mental challenge for everyone. Sorting through and packing up your possessions, saying goodbye to friends and family, and searching for the right moving company takes a lot of time and energy. But for people living with disabilities, this challenge takes on a whole new meaning. The process itself doesn’t change, but you probably need to start planning a bit sooner in order to have everything under control. Everything is manageable when you organize and plan it well. Below are some relocation tips for people with disabilities that will help your move go smoothly and be stress-free.
Courtesy of disabilityawareness.us
Assess your new home
Before you move into your new home, you need find out what modifications might be needed to make it accessible. For example, if you are a wheelchair user, doorways should be large enough to pass through. And if you don’t have full grip strength, the door should be easy to open. Levers are a great alternative to doorknobs. Make a list of steps to an accessible home and make sure you check all the boxes. Some non-profits and local agencies offer assistance to refit a home. A quick web search for your local area or a call to social services office and City Hall can get you the assistance you need.
Courtesy of fraserinstitute.org
Refill prescriptions & double check benefits
About two weeks before your move, you should
refill any prescriptions that you may need over the next couple of weeks.
look into getting a new physician before you move.
check on possible changes with your disability benefits.
Luckily, because Social Security Disability Insurance and SSI are both federal programs, you shouldn’t see any disruption in benefits even if you move to a different state. However, you may need to apply for supplemental benefits at the state you are moving to.
Reduce stress and take good care of yourself
Courtesy of pixabay.com
Everyone gets stressed during a move, but you should try to reduce your stress level as much as possible. The best way to do so is to be well prepared. If possible, you should consider taking two days for your move instead of cramming it all into one. If you are not using a moving company, you should have all boxes packed before moving day and charge all of your electronics fully.
It’s a good idea to have a well packed essentials box that will stay with you throughout the move. You don’t want to go through your moving boxes to find your toothbrush, right? For this reason, remember to pack everything you may need for the last night in your old place and first night and morning in your new home. You will need to make your own list of essentials, but below are some suggestions to get you started:
Pajamas, towel and slippers
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Medicines, if needed
Kettle and coffee or tea
courtesy of moving.tips
Leave the packing to professionals
A DIY move is always risky and is a lot to take on. If you want to assist in the moving process, you’ll need to ask for the help of friends and family. Make a list of the tasks you’ll need help with and ask them to sign up for a task. And remember to be careful not to injure yourself lifting boxes or other items.
Using professional movers may be the safer solution for people with disabilities. Professional movers are familiar with all the regulations, and they are trained to help you in the best way possible. This is especially important for long distance moves.
Packing is the most time-consuming part of moving and it requires a lot of lifting and carrying. The moving company will pack your goods as well as load them on and off the truck. Also, your movers may unpack your belongings at your new home. Of course, you would need to pay extra for these services, but they will save your time and energy. Most importantly, you will not risk getting injured during the process.
Make sure you new home is safe and inhabitable
Courtesy of fema.gov
As soon as you arrive at your new home, check to make sure it’s safe. Take some time to make sure there aren’t any hazards in the way. Pay attention to things like an uneven sidewalk or an outdoor surface that might become slippery when wet. You’ll also want to make sure that all utilities are on at your new place. Take some time to go through the place to make sure your light switches and faucets are working. Also, check if your hot water is on and that the toilet is working properly.
Once your move is done, get to know your new environment and neighbors and enjoy the new chapter of your life!
EXTRA, Extra, read all about it! We have No Boundaries – and we’re going to shout it!
Courtesy of www.socialnorms.org
Here at No Boundaries we help people with disabilities gain more independence by preparing for employment. Our motto, “train for work, train for life,” means the skills we develop here can be used in many aspects of life. We learn and practice the eight No Boundaries tenets in a professional setting:
Our lessons cover a wide variety of topics like elevator pitches, resume building, interview preparation, money management skills, and much more. We like to show people that even though we have disabilities, we have No Boundaries!
I live in Evanston and I have been working at Fleet Feet in Chicago for 10 years. I take the train to work each week. I am on the Special Olympics swim team and power-lifting team. I have been at No Boundaries for almost a year. I enjoy working on my budget and spending. I also work on social communication skills at No Boundaries. I would like to work on getting a new job working with little kids with disabilities.
Alex, Abby, Matt Aliraza, Adrian
I am from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. In Tanzania I worked in my father’s photo studio in the printing lab scanning photos and selling wood frames. I like working with customers. I came to visit my sister and her husband in America in Chicago for the second time. While I am here, I am attending No Boundaries once a week. At No Boundaries I am working on computer and communication skills.
I am from Park Ridge and I just started at No Boundaries. I can play the guitar and I am into video games. I am currently looking for a technology job. I want to work for a phone store or a Game Stop. I know a lot about computers and fixing phones and Apple products. At No Boundaries I am working on improving my computer skills and practicing interviewing skills so that I can find a job.
I was born in Manila in the Philippines, but I was raised in Chicago. I am very good drawing cartoon characters and I am artistic. I am also a Special Olympic athlete. I am on the Search Squad basketball team. We got a silver medal at the state competition this year! Now I am starting to participate in Track and Field. I am also a Disability Awareness Player. We do disability awareness trainings at a lot of different businesses, libraries, and schools. It is very fun to do.
I’ve been at No Boundaries for quite a while. At No Boundaries, I especially like practicing social communication and self-advocacy skills. But I also practice organization, judgment, personal responsibility and writing. I wrote a blog comparing Planet Access Company, where I work, and the Comfort Lighting Warehouse that we visited. I also do office work as an intern at No Boundaries.
Adrian’s bio: I live in Chicago, Illinois. I work in downtown Chicago at The Fine Line tile showroom and I use the brown line on the CTA’s L to get there. I use the Metra to get to Evanston as well. When I’m at No Boundaries I refine certain skills and work on an advice column called Ask Adrian Anything. I also write poetry, song lyrics and fictional stories. I actually have two poems published in a book called “A Room of Golden Shells.” I even have my own writing blog that has over 200 poems on it as well as many other pages.
No Boundaries participants like Matt, Aliraza, Alex, Abby, and Adrian advance through curriculum-based classroom instruction, which is complimented by opportunities for practical, hands-on experiences in the workplace and community. Participants learn and practice real-world skills for employment and community living.
Could you benefit from No Boundaries unique approach to work and life skills training?
Please contact Tricia Luzadder at email@example.com or 847-869-0000 to find out more!
No Boundaries Participants Matt R and Abby S with Visual Comfort President Joe Higgins
Our No Boundaries team visited and toured the Visual Comfort Group Warehouse in Skokie in February. The Warehouse Manager, Scott Christman, gave us a tour of their warehouse and the President, Joe Higgins, gave us a tour of the showroom. No Boundaries participant Abby, who works at Planet Access Company (PAC) Warehouse, wanted to learn how PAC and Visual Comfort Group Warehouse are the same and how they are different.
Below is what Abby found out:
Ann at work at PAC Warehouse
I was surprised at how big the lighting warehouse was. It is a lot bigger than the PAC Warehouse, but the ceilings are a lot higher at PAC than at the lighting warehouse. I learned that the Visual Comfort Group Warehouse employs about 600 people. The manager was not aware that any employees had disabilities. Search Inc’s PAC Warehouse is a social enterprise that competitively employs 4 individuals with disabilities and provides paid work opportunities and vocational training to about 35 additional people with disabilities.
The lighting warehouse was very beautiful. They sell all sorts of light fixtures to businesses and to individuals. They sell indoor and outdoor lights; expensive and inexpensive lights; LED and environmentally friendly lights. Most of the parts for the lighting warehouse fixtures come from China and Italy. At PAC we don’t sell things, but we store, package and ship items for lots of businesses, like Toad&Co and Princess Awesome.
Planet Access Warehouse’s David
Both warehouses have different departments, including a process and returns department. However, I don’t think PAC Warehouse has a customer service department like the Visual Comfort Group Warehouse. PAC is a fulfillment center so we don’t deal directly with customers.
At PAC, we manually tape up boxes. At the lighting warehouse there was a tape gun machine that self-tapes in a straight line across boxes.
I thought that the showroom at Visual Comfort Group Warehouse was very beautiful and very bright! I especially liked the crystal chandeliers. But I like working at PAC. It is clean, organized and roomy. I have a lot of friends there and I get a lot of support.
Welcome back to another installment of “Ask Adrian Anything.” This is intended to give our readers an opportunity to communicate directly with one of our No Boundaries participants, Adrian, about his experiences in the workplace, living independently and out in the community. Recently people asked Adrian a lot about travelling. Adrian answers your questions in an interview format with Tricia asking the questions provided by you, our readers!
Photo courtesy of tripsavvy.com
Please feel free to leave more questions in the comments or contact us on Twitter @JJsList or through Facebook!
Tricia: Do you ever travel? Do you take family trips?
Adrian: Yes. My family and I have been to many states and to Canada. The Frank Sinatra song “Come Fly With Me, Let’s Fly, Let’s Fly Away” would apply since my family has flown to many of the states.
I have been to Florida three times with my family. We visited Disney and Universal Studios. One time I was there – I think I was either 7 or 9 – and we went on these little speed boats. The guy was telling me that is was like driving a car. My thought was, huh? How would I know how to drive a car? We also vacationed in Myrtle Beach and stayed at the sea side resort.
Photo courtesy of vectorstock.com
My family and I have also traveled to visit family in Texas, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Ohio and Nebraska. We did fun things in each place, including gold panning, visiting a zoo, and going to weddings. We’ve traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Cleveland, Ohio; Boston, Massachusetts; Detroit, Michigan, and the Twin Cities, Minnesota for baseball games; to tour the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Henry Ford Museum; and to eat some amazing cannolis!
We have also traveled without visiting family. A few years ago my family and I went to Las Vegas, Nevada, where my parents renewed their wedding vows with an Elvis impersonator! It was fun; we dressed to the nines, rode in a limo that was playing all Elvis music and my brother and I stood alongside my folks as they renewed their vows. The impersonator was awesome and we all had a great time. We even got a great holiday card out of it. Our 2017 holiday card had a few of the pictures with the phrase, “Merry, Merry Christmas Baby!”
We took another family vacation to Maui, Hawaii, where we went surfing, parasailing and snorkeling. It took me four tries to get up on the surfboard, but I finally got on.
Adrian surfing in Hawaii
Two years before high school, I went to Camp Kodiak up in Toronto, Canada. It was an outdoor sporting camp. I got a little pressured into trying an aqua plane on the back of a motor boat, but it was fun. I also got the chance to hear Robert Munsch (a kids book writer) talk about his books. He wrote the book “I’ll Love You Forever” which started as a short song: “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” I also remember hearing the books “Thomas’s Snowsuit” and “I Have To Go” when I was a kid. My family also saw the Toronto Blue Jays at another time.
Tricia: Have you ever been to other foreign countries or have you ever gone anywhere on a plane by yourself?
Adrian: I have not been on a plane by myself. I’ve also have never left North America. We have family out in Italy so that would be my place of choice. Since my brother will be traveling out to Italy this summer, I think my folks and I may join him; anything is possible. The family that we have there lives in the Tuscany area. I would like to know more about my family. Am the only one in my family with Down Syndrome? Or is there someone further back in my family’s history that had it at one point? I would also like to find out more about the history and culture of Italy and Tuscany. As for the food, I can already tell Italians have great taste… or taste buds.
Tricia: Is it difficult to get a passport if you have a disability?
Adrian: It is highly recommended that people overall have a passport. Whether or not you have a disability, anyone can still get a passport. It should not be difficult to get a passport if you have a disability or not. The process of getting a passport should be the same for anyone. I do have a passport, but the pages are blank.
Tricia: Can you offer any travel tips for young adults with disabilities, i.e. what do you do on a long plane or car ride to amuse yourself? Do you recommend bringing snacks/drinks? How about packing – do you recommend packing light or covering all of your bases with the weather?
Adrian: Reading, writing, gaming, music, TV and movies are just a few of many things people in general can do during long flights and/or car rides. I myself read, write a story or poetry and listen to music when I travel. If you’re driving, bringing snacks and drinks is a good idea. But if you are flying, you may want to pack accordingly. Airport security can be tough and they may stop you even if you’re packing an empty water bottle.
The weather is always very unpredictable. You do your best to pack accordingly, but sometimes things don’t always go the way you plan. Sometimes you just need to improvise.
Tricia: Are you aware of any travel accommodations?
Adrian: I personally don’t need accommodations for traveling. However, I do have friends in wheelchairs and a friend with epilepsy who has a service dog. I believe you get to sit in the bulk head airplane seats if you are travelling with a service dog. I’m not sure what travel accommodations are needed for wheelchair users.
Adrian at No Boundaries
This blog was written by Adrian, a participant in No Boundaries, Train for Work/Train for Life , a program of Search Inc. Adrian lives in his own apartment and commutes to his part-time job at the Fine Line in downtown Chicago. He enjoys writing poetry and stories in his free time.
College basketball’s famed March basketball tournament isn’t the only game in town. We had a little March Madness of our own at Search Inc.
Curtis showing off his Good Sportsmanship Award
The “Search Squad” Special Olympics basketball team, lead by coaches Danni, Sharon, and Mary Ann, traveled down to Illinois Wesleyan University over the weekend of March 16th to compete in the Special Olympics State Basketball tournament.
The team did an exceptional job and rose to the challenge by playing games in Division 6, which is three divisions higher than usual! The team performed amazingly well and took home a silver medal! Even better, two players, Curtis and Michael, received Good Sportsmanship Awards.
We were able to ask some of the Search Squad players about their experiences:
Q. Have you ever been on a Special Olympics basketball team before joining the Search Squad? If so, where?
NCAA Bracketology by aseaofblue.com
A. With the exception of Curtis, the Search Squad team has some experience playing for other Special Olympics teams including the M-NASR (Maine-Niles Special Recreation) Wildcats and NSSRA (Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association) Gators.
Q. Tell me one or two reasons why you like being on the Search Squad.
Henry and Jimmy: I like the coaches and the players.
Curtis: It’s fun and I like the coaches.
Sean: I get a sense of achievement and have a lot of fun.
Michael: It’s very good. The team is high quality.
Q. What is special about being on the Search Squad?
Sean: Spending time with friends and the coaches.
Henry: Being on the team is very challenging. I like that.
Jimmy: I like Coach Danni.
Curtis: I love playing basketball for Search. Being on the Search Squad lets me do this.
Q. What skills have you learned by being on the Search Squad?
Henry: I have learned a lot about the game and to be tough player.
Michael: I have learned to shoot and dribble the ball and learned about teamwork.
Sean: I have learned basketball skills and how to play as a team.
Q. What have you learned about yourself by being part of this team?
The Search Squad Team
Sean: I am a team player.
Jimmy: I can do better than I think if I work hard.
Curtis: I like myself and I am very kind.
Michael: I make friends easily.
Henry: I am a team player and work well with others.
Q. How does being on this team make you feel?
All: Being on this team makes us all happy!
Q. What was your favorite thing about travelling downstate with the team?
Sean: My favorite thing about travelling downstate was playing basketball and having my family come to support me.
Jimmy: Being together with the team.
Curtis: I liked staying in a hotel.
Michael: I liked being with friends.
Henry: I liked being with the coaches.
Q. What other Special Olympics teams are you on for Search Squad?
All: Track and Field and Snowshoeing.
A big thank you to our coaches – Danni, Sharon & Mary Ann – and to everyone who supported our athletes on this journey!
Please join us on Thursday, May 2nd for SEARCH TRAILBLAZERS 2019: Celebrating Community Connections at Rockwell on the River in Chicago! This exciting evening will celebrate Search, Inc.’s efforts to further the inclusion of people with disabilities in the community and will honor our champions in this work.
Guests will enjoy cocktails, fun foods, delicious desserts, awards, and a silent auction. Located in a beautiful riverfront setting, Rockwell on the River is Chicago’s newest premier destination and will delight and surprise audiences the moment they arrive.
Search is thrilled to honor Mariano’s, Miller Cooper & Co., Ltd, and Pace Suburban Bus, with the 2019 Trailblazer Award.
Mariano’s is a Chicagoland leader in promoting inclusive employment strategies. Together, Mariano’s and Search have collaborated on job coaching and supportive employment services across six stores, in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.
Miller Cooper & Co. has partnered with Search for more than a decade to advance the agency’s mission. The accounting firm also played an instrumental role in bringing together Search and Glenkirk to form the Keystone Alliance, which has been essential to ensuring the long-term financial sustainability of both organizations.
Pace has partnered with Search to facilitate Hop on the Bus to Independence Workshops that empower individuals with disabilities to access their communities with greater independence through fixed-route public transportation. Since 2012, there have been 167 Hop workshops that have reached 5,300 people in the Chicago area!
For people with disabilities, inclusion is about more than providing ramps, accessible seating, or eliminating other structural or environmental barriers. Inclusion is about creating an open, fair social environment that is accepting of diversity where people with disabilities are valued and able to live full lives. Inclusion is not something that can be achieved by a person with disabilities alone. Inclusivity has to be actively supported in every aspect of community life, from the workplace to the public square. In short, inclusion takes ALL of us.
That is why, for the last several years, Search has worked toward fostering partnerships among other nonprofits, for profits, local and state government, and the public at large to support community inclusion for the individuals we serve. Here are just some of the ways individuals have benefited from greater inclusion in the community:
Katie, who lives in one of Search’s community homes, went to the Park Ridge Farmers market all last summer where she bought bread weekly from John at the Breadman Baking Company. Through their interactions, he learned Katie was an artist in Visibility Arts. At the end of the market season, in October, he commissioned a painting from Katie. He came to her home to pick up the painting in December. Katie is one of the more than 150 artists who benefit annually from Visibility Arts, an immersive arts program.
Dorothy and Shawn volunteer at Twice As Nice Mother & Child in Gurnee IL through Search’s Community Life program. They pack baby wipes for a mobile diaper pantry that serves 8,000 mothers annually. Through giving their time, Dorothy, Shawn and Scott make a big impact in their community. More than 160 individuals have built community connections and self-esteem through volunteering with Search’s Community Life program.
Curtis qualified for the state competition in Snowshoeing with our new “Search Squad” Special Olympics team. Curtis also played on Search’s first ever Special Olympics Basketball team, which advanced to the state playoffs. Through the power of sport, Curtis and other athletes are helping to usher in a new world of unity, tolerance, and respect.
Becky explored destinations throughout Chicago with the Ignite Adult Learning Program including landmarks like the Art Institute, Field Museum, Garfield Park Conservatory, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and more.
Marcia, Lanni, and Stephanie joined 4.4 million of their fellow Illinoisans in voting in the 2018 general election. Before they cast their ballots, they listened to the candidates speak for themselves, and studied up on the issues. A total of 30 Search participants chose to exercise their right to vote in the 2018 election. Nothing exemplifies inclusion more than joining your friends, co-workers and neighbors in exercising your civic rights.
Inclusion transforms lives. With your help, the 540 individuals we serve have opportunities to work in competitive, integrated jobs that pay minimum wage or higher, have an accessible, safe, caring place to call home, and regularly engage in their communities with family and friends.
We hope you will join us on May 2nd as we celebrate Community Connections! All proceeds from SEARCH TRAILBLAZERS 2019 will support individuals like Katie, Shawn, Curtis, and Becky to more fully participate in and enjoy their communities.
Since the “Achieving a Better Life Experience” ABLE program launched in Illinois two years ago, people with disabilities have saved more than $4.5 million in their Illinois ABLE accounts for disability-related expenses.
With ABLE accounts, individuals with disabilities and their families can save money without losing or losing access to federal means-tested benefits such as SSI, SSDI, Medicaid and HUD. SSI beneficiaries who have ABLE accounts can protect their benefits because funds in ABLE accounts do not count against the $2,000 SSI asset cap.
Illinois ABLE staff is ready to answer your questions on the benefits of ABLE accounts and options available to fit your needs. Our goal is to make sure the disability community has the knowledge to make the most of ABLE accounts.
For more information on how individuals with disabilities and their families can build financial wellness and greater financial independence, please visit Illinois ABLE FAQs.
JJsList.com is excited to continue working together with Pace Suburban Bus in 2019 to offer Hop on the Bus to Independence Workshops! These FREE workshops help people with disabilities build skills to take public transportation. The Hop Team is already busy scheduling these fun and interactive workshops. Contact us soon to schedule your workshop!
Ed Madden, Coordinator Public Outreach, Pace Suburban Bus
What happens during the 90-minute Workshop?
The JJsList.com Training Team provides participants with an overview of public transportation across the Chicago Metropolitan Area and introduces online resources for trip planning.
Pace Suburban Bus staff takes participants on a real Pace bus to explore how it works and what participants need to know.
An RTA representative reviews the physical accessibility bus features.
A Self-Advocate shares her knowledge of and experience on fixed-route transportation.
Who can participate?
Any public or private school, agency, service provider, family or community group that works with individuals with disabilities ages 14 and older within the six county areas served by Pace Suburban Bus (Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Will).
Jenny Higgins, jjslist.com Hop on the Bus Instructor
Grocery shopping can be a challenge for anyone. There are many temptations in stores that make it easy to spend over your budget. Search Inc.’s Ignite participants have been working on building skills needed for greater independence, including how to be a smart shopper.
Here are their 7 tips to help you be a smarter shopper!
Tip #1 – Know Your Budget
It’s important to know your budget. You need to understand how much money you have to spend on groceries before you walk into a store.
Tip #2 – Take Inventory
When you are on a budget it’s important to focus on buying what you need. To help you do this, you should check your cupboards and refrigerator to see what you have and what is “missing.” You should then make a list of the products that you need to replace or will need in the near future. Using an inventory check list can be helpful with this task. Having a list of grocery products helps remind you of things you might otherwise forget. You will find lots of different formats of grocery inventory lists online, like this article that lists 5 different templates.
It’s important to think about what you need versus what you want. To check whether something is a want or a need, ask yourself: “Would I be in serious trouble without this?”
If the answer is yes, it’s a need; if the answer is no, it’s a want.
Tip #3 – Make a Meal Plan
Making a meal plan is helpful in planning what you need to buy and helps you stay within budget, too. Once you decide what meals you want to prepare, you should use your grocery check list to add any additional ingredients or products that you need.
Tip #4 – Do Your Research
Most of us have access to more than one grocery store and prices can be different from store to store. To find the most suitable place to shop, it’s helpful to compare prices between grocery stores. To do this you can look at flyers and coupons that you get in the mail or find in newspapers. You can also look at stores’ online advertisements and coupons for the best prices and for generic brands, which are usually cheaper than name brands.
Tip #5 – Treat Yourself!
It’s not realistic to only buy what you need and never buy something that you simply want. Budgeting doesn’t mean you can’t ever buy yourself a treat like pizza, French fries, candy, soda, or other snacks. But it’s good to think about what you can afford and figure out how much you are going to spend on a snack before you go shopping. You should also limit the amount of treats you buy and/or how often you buy a treat.
Tip #6 – Know the Tricks of the Store
There are a lot of temptations at the store, so it’s good to understand the layout of a grocery store. Healthy and fresh items, such as produce, meat, and dairy, tend to be on the outside aisles. Canned fruits and vegetables, boxed pasta, dry cereal and frozen meats, which tend to be cheaper, are on the inside aisles. But even in the inside aisles, you should be aware of the “eye level rule” when looking at a shelf. The more expensive name brands are usually placed at eye level. Bargain and generic items that will save you money are on the lower level.
TIP #7 – Stay away from debt
When paying for your groceries, try to use only cash or debit! That way you only spend the amount you have on hand or the amount that’s on your debit card. Cash and debit are direct payments. This means once you pay, you’re done and you don’t owe anyone.
Credit cards are convenient, but they allow you to spend more than you have. When you use a credit card, you are borrowing money from a bank. You have to pay the bank back. If you can’t or don’t pay the bank back in time, you will be charged interest. This is an added expense that will add up fast. You could end up owing way more than you actually spent on groceries.
What If The Lesson to Learn Is That There Is No Lesson?
Hindsight in parenting rarely accounts for the complexity of the moment.
Suppose your child received feedback on her first assignment in college and called to say, “It turns out I was supposed to read the question before I wrote the answer.” Or imagine her discovering that, “When the professor hands you the test, you have to put your notes away immediately, even if you didn’t finish studying last night. Otherwise he thinks you are cheating even if you don’t look at the test!”
How does a child reach college not knowing such things? Worse, how does a mother fail to teach her daughter such things?
My daughter Sam is autistic. She just started her second semester of college. Her first semester was rocky, and the new one is, if anything, off to a rockier start. She spent an extra year in high school, graduating at nineteen. When my husband proposed the extra year, Sam’s IEP team enthusiastically agreed that she was far too immature to move into adulthood with her classmates. I had hoped for some push-back, some insistence that we were underestimating her skills, but the team, to their credit, cared only about Sam; they were not interested in what my ego yearned to hear. The fifth year turned out to be a wise decision, because her brain was ready to develop more quickly than even I had hoped. Her meltdowns diminished in number and intensity; she took a class at a local university; and she found a club, Best Buddies that embraced her.
In the meantime I bought piles of books about preparing your child with autism for college life. Preparing your child with AD/HD for college life. Preparing your child with a learning difference for college life.
The stack still glares at me from the windowsill: “Why did you buy us if you were never going to read us?” the books demand. “I had good intentions,” I plead, “but I could not face another reminder of all the skills I have failed to teach Sam.” Failed because she was not ready, failed because we could not prioritize one more priority, failed because I did not have the stamina or self-discipline, failed because, maybe, I was not ready to let her go.
This essay is not another list of skills to be sure to teach your child (although I do recommend mastering a washing machine). Rather, it is a plea to devalue hindsight. If only I had known then what I know now. . . . When I ask myself what I should and could have done differently, at the end of the day the answer is that I still do not know.
How could competent parents not have taught their child always to read the question before she writes the answer? To take note when a professor passes out an exam? But dozens of teachers, paraprofessionals, tutors, Sam’s father and I did try to teach her. We instructed, reminded, coached, and reviewed endless assignments. We modeled and we told her explicitly. Perhaps, as with so many other things, her executive functioning was simply too underdeveloped at the time to internalize the message.
As Sam grew up, we taught her many skills. We taught her to navigate public transportation alone. We taught her how to explain her autism to teachers and request accommodations. We taught her that the world demands flexibility. We taught her that people sometimes exaggerate or lie, that their thought processes do not mirror hers and they cannot read her mind, that “mixed emotions” is not a bad thing, that nobody is perfect. We taught her that she can survive frustration. Most importantly, we taught her to be proud of her talents. And we taught her to use a washing machine.
However, there are many skills left to learn. Moderating her voice. Eating with her mouth closed. Restraining the impulse to blurt out comments in class. Asking permission before she handles other people’s belongings. Managing her time well. We tried with all of these, but her sensory profile, the need to choose priorities, and my concerns about constantly bashing her self-esteem conspired to leave all of these as works-in-progress (WIP). I expect some skills will forever be WIP.
When Sam left home, I anticipated finally being able to figure out the right way to have parented: Aha, THAT was a mistake! WHOA, never do that again! WHAT could I have been thinking?
Instead, I am learning how to manage the present, a present in which I have almost no control over her mistakes. Or her successes. And Sam has experienced many successes. Surviving and passing first semester, to start. Learning from her professors and her peers for another. Making her home in a new town for a third.
Barb Cohen, Parent, Blogger at Psychology Today’s “Mom, Am I Disabled?” and Education Advocate
I have not learned much, if anything, about reliving the past. Sometimes I think that asking what I should have taught her, what, in hindsight, I should have done differently, does us both a disservice. It’s not just about what I could or should have done. It also seems to imply that she has no right to make mistakes like other college students, no ability to learn and mature on her own with the attendant missteps and embarrassments inherent in that process. Her list of life skills to master may be different than other students’, and it may be longer, and it may take more time. But she can do her own laundry. The rest she will either figure out where she is, or she will reset course and try again. And maybe then again. And again and again. Why should she be expected to make fewer missteps along the way than the rest of us?
Parents do not need another list of skills to be sure we teach our children. We need permission to leave some tasks undone, left for our children to master on their own.