Friday’s Visit: Yesterday afternoon I stopped by to drop off a check for our daughter’s November recreational costs. Though entitlements fund rent and staffing, food, household goods and Medicaid, (if they finally reinstate her) nothing is left over for costs such as clothes, furnishings, and outings of any kind including movies, the recreation center, Sphere and Pegasus. Each month, each mom forks over $140 for the girls’ other needs (which is in addition to paying membership fees or class costs for Pegasus or Sphere or Ridgefield Recreation Center.) When I arrived our daughter was upstairs on her laptop, probably watching The Pacific but came down to chat and open up a birthday card from a Riverview classmate. I was so happy to hear that her first morning at ROAR was a success. They trained her to clean out a cat cage. And then she went off to The Complete Cat Clinic where she also had a good experience. Later, when her apartment-mate returned from her volunteer job (their schedules are flipped so that one staff member can serve both girls, which is how their fundings are collapsed to provide optimal coverage within a tight budget) I actually met the new vocational life skills person who seemed on the ball and substantiated my perceptions of what occurred the day before at the Senior Residence.
Shaking Things Up: Knowing that our daughter has begun her pre-winter seasonal slump (which I believe correlates with a seasonal affective disorder as I have observed this downward trajectory since her elementary school days and have looked into allergies, homeopathic remedies, and much else) I offered some suggestions to her residential staff. Research has shown that the more uninterrupted hours you sit before any screen, television, video or computer, the more mood is negatively impacted. Besides the obvious deleterious effects that a prolonged sedentary state has on our bodies, the endless hours of staring at the computer screen is a ticket to a grumpy kid or adult. In addition, exercise and oxygen (as in getting outdoors) , social contact and variety, stimulate endorphins and counteract depressive tendencies. So ladies, let’s shake things up here.
Too Much Screen Time: The commitment to physical exercise, swimming and the gym, has been implemented by the ABD staff but illness, power outages, shorter days and schedule issues have interrupted what was in the first months of CRS (Continuous Residential Support), a fairly active lifestyle for the apartment-mates. While our daughter’s mate enjoys and is able to play board games and cards with staff in the living room, which I observe when I visit, I often find our daughter up in her room at her desk on Facebook or watching a movie on the computer. Though her choice of movies is pretty high level, stimulates her thinking and expands her knowledge base and her interactions on Facebook are age appropriate social exchanges, the sedentary, monotonous process of screen involvement needs to be shortened and interspersed with “activity.” I think this has been a significant contribution to her recent emotional decline.
Staff Agrees: When I left the girls yesterday, after conversing with staff about this issue, they were inspired to go off to the Recreation Center to swim and apparently stayed in the pool for a full hour. Super. Staff gets it completely. But I will follow-up with an email to the higher-ups regarding monitoring our daughter’s time on the computer, with plans to create more variety and movement, indoors and out, so she doesn’t suffer from computer hangover.
Follow-Up To Vocational Flop: Don’t get me wrong. I am not impossible to please. Grateful that ROAR gets our daughter, gave her a job she could do and according to the ABD vocational staff member, seems to have a handle on how to work with her, I am not on a roll to castigate or reprimand for Thursday’s flop. But I have asked for a meeting with ABD vocational and residential staff coordinators, which was supported by a staff member who agrees that clarifying our daughter’s strengths and challenges with sensible parameters would be good to do, again. I understand that we are in the early stages of “adult independent living.” Much to learn for all of us.
Distance Is Good Too: I have to say that when our daughter lived 200 plus miles away ten months a year, for five years, subtracting vacations home, distance was not a bad thing for an intense mom whose boundaries can be a bit porous. I am sure for staff working with our daughter, that maternal distance has its virtues. For daughter, definitely. Those five years at boarding school were all we could have wished for her. She developed greater confidence and skill in every pore of her being. And though mom and dad are only eight miles away now, thankfully she is still growing, despite the maternal magnet to the east. Once the seasonal affective adjustment works its way through her system and my reactivity to her/it, we should be back on a more even keel.
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2011