Today, more than ever before, the future is bright for children with disabilities. With the right education and community experiences, young adults with disabilities are going to college, working, and living on their own (with and without supports). By being a proactive and informed parent, you can help your child gain the skills he or she needs to be successful.
To quote a great disability advocate, friend and support of mine:
It’s natural for parents of children with disabilities to want them to stay in safe, comfortable environments, where the people caring for them love them just as they are and will make sure nothing can hurt them. A kind of safe, cotton box. But take a minute and think carefully about where that same environment exists in the adult world. Make sure the settings you place your child in today while they are young provide them with the experiences they will need in the future. They will only be prepared for what they know and have experienced. For example, nobody wants to see their child bullied in junior high. But isn’t it better to learn how to handle bullies in junior high (where everyone learns how to handle bullying) than to be the victim of adult abusers because you never learned to stand up for yourself or ask for help? Sadly, the “safe cotton box” in the adult world is often anything BUT safe…and probably not the kind of setting or life you envision for your precious child.
My own son is now moving into the adult world, and we have yet to find that safe, cotton box. Hopefully, we have prepared him for the “real world” by giving him chances to grow and learn within the community. These experiences were sometimes successful and sometimes a failure. But even in failure, there was a chance to gain knowledge and self-advocacy skills.
For example, he tried band (trumpet), but he didn't stay with it because of the noise level and fact that other students didn't always play on key. Yet he learned to read music, play an instrument and work in a group. And he was allowed to make choices (to play trumpet and to continue or not)...self determination and self advocacy skills.
As you participate in your child’s Admission, Review & Dismissal (ARD) meetings, keep your child’s future in mind. Goals and objectives need to reflect access to the curriculum, as well as those important self advocacy skills mentioned above. To learn more about this, visit the Texas Project FIRST website and check out the IEP section. There’s also a page on Your Child’s Individual Education Program (IEP) on this website as well. It’s never too early to start preparing our children (and ourselves) for the future.