Ahhh high school graduation! It’s the day where children and parents everywhere rejoice in the end of a 13 to 14 year struggle. Finally completed! Or is it?
I voluntarily gave our family a reprieve for a couple years after graduation…not asking, wanting or fighting an uphill battle for anything. I regrouped and re-established friendships and started new ones. I felt the healing process had begun. I thought to myself “This is the person I used to be” before all the frustration with the endless IEP’s and meetings with district officials that began over a decade ago.
Here is some sage advice:
“Vacation is good, but never take your eye off the ball”.
Remember how we fought so Johnny wouldn’t regress if he didn’t have summer school? Well the same is true for services after high school. There needs to be a continuum for our young adults. You need to be ahead of the game and keep things progressively moving along.
Programs end at ages of 18 and 22 and often there are times when it seems there is no one to help with the next steps of the journey. But you have to find those people to help you. While your child is in high school, that is the time to prepare for adult hood.
Be in touch with programs through SSI, like “Ticket to Work” in the state of California that helps your adult child get prepared to work. They will provide services to get them there, such as life skills, social skills training, using a bank and learning how to use public transportation.
In California we have Regional Centers that provide more services at this stage of the game. Every state has a different agency and you should know the ones in your area. Get to know them and be on the board if you can.
Network with other parents and find out what your local Autism groups can help with. Don’t wait till the last minute where everything will be taken and there may be waiting lists. If you do wait you might be waiting for a very long time.
In these economic times, it is unfortunate that there are fewer programs to choose from at a time when our children need more. If your children are going to college many are impacted and it will take more planning to get your child to succeed.
Collaborate, Network, think ahead and most importantly do it with a cool head.
By Christinna Guzman
* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.