Category: independent

October 13, 2021 by clearymf 0 Comments

Making Friends – Not So Easy!

As our learning disabled children get older, their circle of friends becomes smaller. It’s a bit easier when they’re in school, especially their local school, because they can connect with young people in the neighborhood. But middle school and high school bring their own challenges.

Finding Common Ground

As with all young people, they want to establish friendships with those who have common interests and abilities. Well, that’s not so easy when you have a disability and all your classmates may be “differently- abled” than you. Some may have trouble talking, reading, walking, socializing, even behaving appropriately, and your child might not fit any of those profiles. So the friendship possibilities become smaller.

 Social Isolation

In fact, social isolation is one of the major problems facing learning disabled teens and young adults. Think about it. Most of our older children find friends on their own, at school, on their teams and in clubs and other extracurricular activities. Unless we find these activities for our disabled kids, they won’t be able to have that same advantage. And how much time does it require to find the appropriate social pastime? A lot!

I remember once we took our daughter and her friend to Bingo which was organized by a widely recognized group for the disabled. Our kids were so polite when we asked them afterwards if they enjoyed it. “It was good,” they said, “but everyone was a little – well – old.” Cross that one off the list!

Finding Activities That Fit

Since our daughter has three brothers, she’s grown up with sports all around her, and so Special Olympics has provided a wonderful outlet for her. The best thing about Special Olympics is that you don’t have to have the ability but rather the desire. And a big “COVID silver lining” is that, when they were unable to play because of the quarantine, they started a twice-weekly Zoom group which continues to this day. And there, they play a Bingo game that my daughter and her friend really enjoy!

A Job That Really Pays Dividends

Encouraging social interactions is just another responsibility for special needs parents. Our job isn’t easy but when we succeed at helping our kids make connections, the rewards are great. Let’s keep reaching out to each other for ideas so we can improve our children’s chances for life success. 

July 22, 2021 by clearymf 0 Comments

Letting Go

Letting Go – Not So Easy

It’s every parent’s dilemma – when to let go. Is it time to send them to day care or preK or summer camp? How many moms (or dads!) followed the school bus the first day your child rode alone? (Full disclosure – I did!) As your children get older, you’d think it would get easier but it gets worse because now they’re going out with their friends to a mall or concert, driving for the first time, or, one of the toughest, going off to college. The grey hairs on our heads are measured by each small slip of our grasp on our children’s lives.

What if your child has a disability?

For parents of the disabled, these events may be especially difficult. Each of us wishes a full and free life for our child. We dream of a time when they will be able to live and work as independently as possible. However, self-sufficiency requires the ability to be – well – self-sufficient. Many of us spend countless hours teaching our kids to do chores around the house, count money, travel on public transportation. We sign them up for jobs or volunteer work where they will acquire abilities that they wouldn’t have the chance to learn at home. But at what point is it safe to “let go?”

A Different Kind of Question

When parents are deciding about whether or not to send their disabled child off to some kind of independent living situation, there is one question that looms large: “Is it safe?” Of course, every parent worries about safety but normally developing children can be taught about danger in a way they will most often remember. For those with disabilities, it’s not the same; their ability to think critically is often hampered. When my daughter was working, we used to stay on the phone with her when she walked the three busy blocks from her job at Panera’s to her tutoring session, talking her through every street crossing. I remember once I fell down the basement stairs, and when I asked my daughter to call her brother, she just stared at me. Somehow, the shock of seeing me there made her unable to function.  

So How Can They Live On Their Own?

That’s the question we’re facing now – and we’re not alone. As we age, we know we have to plan for our children to live without us. We’ve checked out every option – group homes, supervised apartments, licensed residences, independent housing. We’ve run ourselves ragged visiting almost every model that’s available. Many of them were admirably run but there was always a problem – too far, too institutional, not enough supervision, caregivers would come and go. We found two places that had a wonderful setup but, in each case, the success of the operation depended on one very talented person. Suppose that person was no longer there – then what?

Are We Just Making Excuses?

Since we have a daughter, my husband is being especially protective. He keeps on saying that he understands it’s important for her to learn about living on her own. But it’s going to be especially hard for him to make the leap. However, I believe that if the right opportunity came along, we’d know it and, while biting the bullet, we’d do it. So far, that hasn’t happened and time keeps ticking away. And it’s not going to wait for the perfect moment or situation.

Will We Ever Stop Worrying?

Probably not. We’re parents after all. But for parents of the disabled, the worry is with us daily. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a parent support meeting where someone didn’t cry, because sometimes the questions seem to have no answers. So all we can do is be there for one another, exchange helpful information, rely on those who can help and create as loving an environment as we can for our children. And then we can only trust that we’ve done our best.