Friday, June 15, 2012

The Graduate

Today Phoenix graduated school.  For most parents this is a grand day and one worth celebrating.  Everyone's hard work over the past twelve years culminated into pomp and circumstance.  Excitement is in the air maybe tinged with melancholy and a bit of sadness as children have become adults seemingly overnight.  Futures are bright.  The world is their oyster.  All they need is drive and determination and there is little that can stop them.

What about the graduate with severe disabilities?  What becomes of them once they no longer have school to attend every day?  Here in our province we are lucky in that adults with disabilities have access (limited in space mind you) to day programs.  I say lucky however it is a world that in no way competes with the quality of programming and social interaction that exists in a school environment.  It is frustrating to see all the hard work the teachers and support staff have put in often times go to waste as the education and experience expected for them to have when employed in the schools is not at all a requirement in the day programs.  The activities and stimulation are vastly different.  Because the graduate with disabilities is also over eighteen, between whatever the current philosophies in the field of disabilities dictates and the provincial government regulates they are then granted all neurological faculties they were not provided with at birth thereby giving them decision making capabilities yet none of the responsibilities.  Should a person with cognitive disabilities "decide" that when they go to their day program where thousands of dollars are spent to staff etc that they want to remain covered in a blanket on the floor all day well that is their right as an adult to make that decision.  Should they want to wear their coat in temperatures in the high eighties that is their right to make that decision as well even though they do not have the cognitive capabilities to understand the health risks in that choice.  Telling an adult with a developmental disability "no" is not allowed.  For some of my kids that potentially means you have a giant two year old running the joint.  My point in saying these things is that so much time, energy and creativity is spent in providing an appropriate education and graduation comes along and then what?                                                  

Don't get me wrong.  I want my children to be afforded the best care and in as dignified a manner as possible.  I want the language and tone used to communicate with them to be appropriate, least restrictive and respectful.  I want them to be offered choices in their day and for them to feel in control whenever feasible.  That all being said the adult with developmental disabilities has to be met where they are and for some that might be at a twelve to twenty four month cognitive level.  Choice making, direction, limit setting can all be done in the manner that I have stated taking into consideration the developmental level then providing what I believe to be a more secure, productive quality filled, safe day.  I wish that was the case in all the adult day programs.  As in anything when we try and regulate we become stringent and lose all common sense.

In getting back to my gorgeous graduate.....  Though I am saddened about the possibility of Phoenix leaving school this year (long story...trying to get more time based on her age...) we celebrated her and her school mates.  They were all so excited to be wearing the gowns, having their families there and it being a day about them.  I am very proud of Phoenix.  She has made some great gains in the last few years.  She has such determination and a great sense of fun about her.  She knows what she wants and she knows how to take a big bite out of life.   A totally fantastic, awesome human being.

Gawd help me the dog graduated too!

The tears were typical for her with over excitement

Too gorgeous for words

Proud of some of the pictorial highlights of her year

Best teacher EVAH!


Kimberley said...

Sweet Phoenix, it is so hard to believe you are now a graduate! Knowing you changed my life; your humor, your spunk, your ability to climb into a sand table faster than I can cross a room... You are a beautiful spirit, and you have become a beautiful young woman. I pray the years ahead hold more triumphs, blessings and joyful surprises!

Lots of love to you, you area one amazing young lady"

Tricia said...

Thanks so much Kimberly!