What’s going to happen when my child finishes school? What will happen when I am no longer here? Can we expect to have a life independent from our son or daughter?
If you are asking these questions, it is likely that your child has been given a label and may have a physical or intellectual impairment. These are questions that have been asked by families for generations, and the answer has almost always been negative or based around formal services.
When we look a what is available to a child with a label on completing schooling we are usually offered sheltered work or ‘post school options’ which means community presence for a few hours per week. For living accommodation, the options generally revolve around group home living at best, with waiting lists of several years, even if families are in great need.
Can’t we do better than this?
It would be a rare parent who would choose these segregated options if real jobs, real unpaid relationships and real living options existed. We all aspire to an ordinary, good life for ourselves and our non-labelled children, so it must be reasonable to aspire to the same for a child with a label. But it is not going to just happen, and it is not going to be easy, or free of disappointments and letdowns. But it can happen with careful planning, good people and good will. It is never to early to plan, and never too late.
Planning for the long term future can lead us to things to focus on in our child’s learning in the preschool years as well as appropriate choices in day care, preschool and school. Choices made here can influence adult and life outcomes.
The choice of school; work done on relationship development; membership of clubs and groups; relationships with other families; financial planning; social skill development – all of these will have long term impacts for high school, work and independence, as well as family security.
These are generally the hardest years for all parents, but particularly for children with a label. We have to think of the child gaining independence from us; the possible employment options that are developing; to deal with the ‘hormone issues’ with a child who is highly vulnerable physically, as well as helping the child emotionally through the fragility of relationships when these relationships may be less in number than their siblings. If we let these years slip by, we will arrive at the end of schooling with a young adult at home most of the time apart from a few organised outings. Planning can minimise this risk.
Adult life means work, independence, relationships, even life partners. These are the parts of an ordinary, good life. To achieve them for a person who has been excluded from society will take some doing, but it can be done. It comes from planning; careful thought based on deep knowledge of the individual; awareness of the vulnerability of the person; as well as positive expectations, highly motivated supporters and lots of people with the ‘right relationship’. If we don’t plan here, parents can get sick or die with highly damaging consequences for the individual. If we look at our own life, our safety and security come from relationships, not formal services. This is the area we need to develop.
Include can help with this planning*. Miracles are not possible but hope, high expectations and real practical outcomes are achievable and worth working for. Costs are based on family or agency consultancy fees and will normally involve getting to know the individual and family and working together with family, friends and associates to build an ordinary, good life for an individual. While this planning can involve a lot of time and careful thought, the value of peace of mind, a clear life plan and positive developments in the person’s life can be priceless. To discuss what is involved, or to get a representative to talk to your agency or group, contact Include.
*It is of course impossible to guarantee any particular life outcome for any individual. While the life planning process is designed to maximise the probability of a good, ordinary life, events out of our control can limit or undermine any planned outcomes.