As someone who is working hard to realize my dreams and as someone who is adapting to my changing dreams, I think about the future and what it takes to be where you want to be when you get there. This skill comes in handy when I go to IEP meetings and the staff brings up the issue of “transition planning,” which refers to my children’s transitions out of the school system and into their adult lives.
Alex’s IEP meeting came first and, surprisingly, we discussed transition planning more in his meeting than in Willy’s. The impression I have from these meetings is that they have an established track for “people like Alex,” which involves building “job skills” and being transitioned into a sheltered work environment. Kandu and Riverside are two local examples that involve creating work for people with special needs that severely interfere with their ability to get “normal,” competitive jobs.
I understand why these tracks exist and, for the most part, don’t have a problem with their existence. This post isn’t about the problems I do have with such facilities either.
According to his teachers, Alex has good “job skills” and he enjoys the work. But there’s something Alex enjoys more and that’s art. I know there are individuals who, with appropriate assistance, can share their art with the world and have that as their vocation, even though they have special needs that severely interfere with their ability to live “normal” lives. Special needs, even severe special needs, don’t mean lack of talent. Unfortunately, his teachers don’t necessarily share my understanding of this kind of opportunity.
Part of it is that “artist” is a rather tough, competitive gig anyway you look at it. I know, because while my art is very different from Alex’s many of the struggles are quite similar. I know Alex would need support to make him successful on such a unique track, and I know that some of this support would be beyond my capabilities. But it is possible. It would also be conducive to Alex’s disposition in ways a sheltered work environment would not be.
It’s hard to know what Alex wants. I don’t know if Alex thinks about his future. Even if he does, there are few ways he can communicate his thoughts so that we can understand. But I know I don’t want his options to be limited to a track to a sheltered work environment. I want him to be able to choose to be who and what he wants to be.
Then, there’s Willy. At his meeting, he announced that he doesn’t want to go to college. But he still wants to design video games. I’m not sure the latter is possible without the former, but then again, if he learns the skills he needs, then he can do what he wants with the right support. Again, I know it’s possible and I know at least some of what he’ll need to make it possible for him. He also wants to have our house to himself—good luck with that one, buddy!