As parents, our biggest job is to prepare our kids for independent lives. We love them, educate them and encourage them. We teach them right from wrong. We hope that once they are adults, they have learned all they need to make their futures successful. While our children take different paths and detours along the way, the best result is their successful launch as competent adults.
Each of my kids had a disability. Our expectations for each of them were similar. We wanted each of them to find independence, though that independence might look different for each child.
We knew that each would have to face unique challenges and that each would find success on their own time schedule. We also knew that each would need different levels of support from us. But we did expect each to reach the highest level of success they could.
Our oldest son had profound disabilities. We knew he would not be able to live without a great deal of support. Our plan for him was that he would leave our home when he became an adult and live in a group home setting.
While we loved having him with us, we knew we wouldn’t always be there to take care of him. We didn’t want his siblings to feel obligated to be his full-time caretakers. And we wanted him to transition while we were still around to oversee his care. He passed away before the time to implement our plan so we don’t know how it would have worked out.
Our daughter’s disabilities included ADD, learning disabilities, anxiety and depression. School wasn’t easy for her, but she was always successful. After high school, she left home and supported herself with low-paying jobs, living paycheck to paycheck.
At 22, she decided that minimum wage was not enough for her success. So she decided to go to college. She got help through DARS for textbooks and Pell Grants to cover tuition. Then she just powered through. She graduated at 28, totally on her own, with honors and without debt. We think we helped her with survival skills, but her determination was the ultimate tool to her success.
Our youngest child is still at home. He has high-functioning autism and depression. He’s now 22. He’s never had a job but is currently in a skills program offered by our local Easter Seals. He was placed there through Texas Workforce Commission. He is doing well in the program.
The goal is for him to find employment and then hopefully consider a certificate program at our local community college. Possibly even a college degree. He’s heading toward independence. But on his own timetable.
Our kids are successful, each in their own way. While that success might look different for each, our preparation, guidance, teaching and support aided each to reach toward bright futures.
Want to know more about preparing your child for independence?