Transition to Adulthood

This last week, our local television news program highlighted the "Transition Fair" at one of the area high schools.  Transition, for those of you who do NOT have special needs children, is the process by which our children move from high school to the wider community.

We got on the transition bandwagon late in the game.  The thought of sending our son to a facility, or having him live away from us was abhorrent to our idea of what parenting a special needs child meant.  We were prepared to keep him at home, and to tend to his every need.  What we didn't reckon on was Lacy's desire to be an independent adult.

 Lacy graduated from high school, and began to work part time in the supported work environment available in our home town.   So many people along the way told us we needed to make plans for Lacy to live independently  We resisted until two things happened.  One day Kenny came home from work, exhausted and uneasy.  He had taken care of the mother of a special needs adult.  The mother became disabled and had to send her daughter to a long term care facility - a group home.  This young woman had never been away from home.  Her mother had been everything to her, and now she was terrified to live somewhere else.  It was traumatic for everyone in the family, but there was no choice.  The second event was a little more subtle, but it caught our attention nonetheless.  Lacy began to act out in violent outbursts.  He was angry and defiant.  It took us a while, but we figured out that he did not want to be a child any more.  He was 18 years old and he wanted to be treated as an adult.

Kenny and I decided that we couldn't wait to make plans for Lacy until we were ready or until circumstances demanded a plan.  We had to be proactive.  Thus began our search for the right place for Lacy.  We had hoped to find a facility very close to home, but the only opening available was at a home in Little Rock, which was over an hour away from where we lived in Russellville.  We went to visit, sat down with the administrator of the home, and looked up the home's record with the Office of Long Term Care.  The place seemed like a good fit, so we prepared Lacy as best we could for the transition.

For parents reading this now, I will tell you this was one of the hardest things I have had to do in my lifetime.  There is no way to prepare yourself or your child.  We told Lacy that everyone moves out when they become adults, that Kenny and I had both gone away at 18, and that this was the best things for him.  We moved him into this group home, and left him curled in a fetal position on the bed, looking terrified.  I cried all the way home.  Kenny and I decided that if he was that miserable when we went to see him in a couple of weeks, we would take him back home.

The period of adjustment wasn't easy, but Lacy blossomed in his new home.  He became confident and independent.  He enjoyed coming home, but was just as anxious to get back to his apartment.  We realized how short-sighted we had been by not considering this kind of transition for our son.

Every child is special and unique.  As a mom and dad, we have the highest expectations for Lacy, even now that we are battling HD.  He loves being independent, and we are able to be his parents - loving, supportive, and hopeful.    We had to recognize that Lacy was a man who wanted more in life than to live with Mom and Dad.  He wanted friends and social opportunities.  Part of parenting is letting go and allowing your child to flourish.


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