All parents want their children to grow up to be happy independent adults, that contribute to society in a meaningful way. That is what I desire for my girls and what they both want for their children. The difference is my oldest daughter’s children discover their hopes, dreams, and career through natural growth and progression through school, the youngest daughter’s children not so much.
My youngest daughter Cyndi, has my two grandson who have special needs. Matt just graduated (aged out) of school in May. It was a very difficult decision to choose where life would take him next. Matt is an amazing young man, friendly, and helpful, but working at in traditional job just isn’t the right fight for him. It takes Matt sometime to be really comfortable in situations with unfamiliar people, but after that he shines. He has been at his work location since October and is very happy. He says he goes to work to earn money for Jesus and God. This past week was a little bit of adult shock reality when he discovered that “Spring Break” didn’t exist for him anymore. But, I guess we have all experienced that reality in our life.
Miah will soon be 16 and is very different than Matt. He is very social and longs to be independent. So Cyndi has been looking for opportunities to allow him to expand his horizon and stretch his wings a bit. This Summer she has decided to let him go to a week-long overnight camp. Although, she and her sister went to church camp when they were under the age of 10, she was unsure about letting Miah go. First, although the camp is for individuals with special needs and he will have a one-one buddy, it will be the first time he has been gone that wasn’t with family. The funny thing is Cyndi has worked in camp situations like this before, but states it is different when it’s her baby. I guess I can understand; after all she is my baby. Secondly, the ages of the campers are fairly wide spread. For example, one week is for ages 7-18, and another 7-45. The camp explained that the cabins are based on ages so he wouldn’t share a cabin with someone 45 years old, but still a concern; finding a balance between protection, safety and letting go.
This is just the first of many hurdles to overcome as Miah gets older and strives for independence. How do we balance between encouraging dreams, but maintaining reality? Cyndi doesn’t see Miah working in a sheltered workshop environment like Matt, but not sure what else would be achievable. I recently watched a show on television about a group of young adults with Down Syndrome. I struggled with some of the situations, believing that in an effort to support their children some parents had allowed very unrealistic dreams. For example, one young lady was moving to California to be a movie producer. That career is very difficult for anyone to achieve, so is this not setting up for failure. Cyndi’s perspective of the show was a little different. She saw how the parents struggled with the idea that they had always been told of their child’s limitations, but discovering things they thought they would never deal with actually being a reality. In the Mandt System we teach that all individuals serving or being served have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Part of this includes listening to the dreams of others and doing what we can to realistically support those dreams to the degree that is appropriate and possible give our role and responsibilities. It is not for us to set limitations on others for whom we have no right to determine based on diagnostic label or determined intellect what those limitations might be.
For example, all of the adults wanted a significant other and hoped to have families of their own someday. Who gets to make that choice? Is that not every individual right? Tough questions with no easy answers. I guess the path through life isn’t so very different after all.
In the Mandt System we teach that all individuals serving or being served have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Part of this includes listening to the dreams of others and doing what we can to realistically support those dreams to the degree that is appropriate and possible give our role and responsibilities. It is not for us to set limitations on others for whom we have no right to determine based on diagnostic label or determined intellect what those limitations might be.
Randel C. Goad – Mandt Faculty Supervisor