Geography: A challenging component of producing a rich program for our daughter is transportation. Several interesting offerings are miles apart. Volunteer jobs in animal settings with caring and willing staff may not be easy to find and one intriguing possibility is an hour south of here. The more local option works only with cats, and our daughter is a doggy girl. Though her service agency will transport her and her apartment mate much of the time, some of the gaps will be filled in by mom. Horseback riding with the Pegasus Therapeutic Riding Program will be an hour from home, a half hour from her future apartment. Volunteer work with an O.T. swim program is probably 45 minutes from her future home. There should be other options in her new town for volunteer work with dogs, but that remains to be seen.
The Travel Question: A critical distinction between special needs young adults and typical peers is the travel question. There is a range of proficiency in this area amongst her schoolmates. Some are learning to drive. Others can travel safely, within parameters, on public transportation. Our daughter may get there but for now is dependent on having a partner to travel with on public transportation or being transported by others. One of those “others” will clearly be me.
Autonomy: The dictionary defines autonomy as the right or condition of self-governing, independence. To some degree, I had this autonomy while our daughter was in boarding school. At least it has felt that way, though clearly responsibilities of work, home, family, pets, and friendships make none of us fully “independent.” But the illusion felt good. Our daughter has never had the total condition of self-governing, which is not unusual for her young age. But for her, this condition may last a lifetime.
Much of my week will be colored by her week. At least at first. Over time, my role should morph into that of any mother whose child lives in the next town: checking in; sharing shopping excursions and movies, being there to help pick up the pieces of some problem. That is the goal. Independent living aka having reliable service providers who can make this work.
Keeping An Eye On The Staff: Whom our children consort with is a key variable in determining their safety, and while they are young we assess teachers, camp counselors, team coaches, baby sitters and of course, peers. For our daughter, that assessment will continue throughout her lifetime. Obviously the job will have to pass (no pun intended) from her parents to others with time. Hence, the task I will be most focused on in the coming months is assessing staff, drivers, and settings. That alone should keep me quite busy. I know from experience that I can become very mother lioness with this task for both our children. Yet I have learned too that first impressions can throw me off. Sometimes the toughy turns out to be a sweetie and great advocate. Other times the toughy is too tough. Sloppy work, where supervision is lax in situations that are potentially dangerous, is the one component that is unacceptable.
Job Description: Nothing new here: Mom
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2011