January 28, 2011

The Job

I don't know how it happened but Alex is almost 18. She is no longer the sweet and sensitive daughter I used to have. She is a full blown teenager with all the mood swings and dreams of every other teenager I know, including both her siblings.

When a child with an IEP reaches 18 they are invited to participate in the public school district's Transition program. This could be located at the local high school or a centralized school in the district. In theory these transition programs should provide the services that were provided in high school as well as job coaching and other adult related living skills.

I was also told that although Alex may have met the academic requirements for graduation from high school, we should request a "social" diploma or she will not be eligible for the Transition program. Pure semantics to me, but I have larger battles to fight. A social diploma it will be in June, 2012

Our local program is called Ready for the World, but I am not sure Ready for the World is ready for Alex. It is a new program, previous to this the students over 18 stayed in the High School and worked with the other students on IEP goals. Job coaching as well as living skills were at a minimum, and I know some parents thought it was a waste of time.

I applaud our school district (did I really say that?) in their attempt to create this program and I do believe it has improved since it first year and will improve every year. When Alex gets her social diploma from high school the RFTW program will be in its fourth year, so I am hesitant to commit. Alex is getting very subtle comments from her teachers about the program and her expectation is she will attend. I on the other hand do not have those expectations unless I believe it will benefit Alex, so we are currently undecided. Alex has told me she would like to go to college, so although I am dragging my feet at yet another research project, I will look into it.

To make this long story short, I realized last December that most 17 year olds had jobs, so why shouldn't Alex? Alex likes kids, and more importantly young kids do not see Alex as different. In their eyes she is a teenager and "cool". They listen to her and often follow her around. She is like the pied piper of down syndrome. Alex also likes crafts, and she is very organized and tidy. Why shouldn't Alex work in a preschool or child care facility?

To that end, I walked into the childcare facility at Snowmass Mountain Resort (Treehouse) in mid-December and asked to speak with the person in charge. This lovely woman had no hesitation about offering Alex an "internship" during the winter break. She did her homework however, and called Alex's teacher to ask questions, almost like a job reference. Once assured Alex would be an excellent internee, we worked out a schedule of three days a week, three hours a day. All told Alex worked six days.

Each work day Alex woke up by herself, dressed nicely and kept me on track so she would not be late for work. Each work day when I picked Alex up she was smiling, happy and proud. She recounted stories of the kids (she had 18 months – 3) and mentioned the ones she helped to stop cry. There was always a particular child who would attach themself to Alex, and I heard a new name each day.

Alex has been asked to work at the Treehouse during her spring break as well as summer vacation. However, I need to figure out how I can turn this internship into a paying job. I had told Alex it was a job, which to her meant getting paid, and cost me $60. At this rate I will be even broker than I am today!

Yes, Alex is getting older and with that comes many life choices for young adults with disabilities. There could be more education, perhaps a college program, jobs, living situations (NOT in my house) relationships, social activities, and the list goes on.

Am I really ready for this? I often doubt myself and my personal fortitude that is necessary to help Alex succeed, but we have gotten this far, why stop now? Oh how did this happen so fast!


  1. After Beth graduated, she entered a program like Ready for the World. It was created to help ease the transition between school and the work force. I guess it served it's purpose. It was a difficult time for me (just some personal things I was going through) so Beth probably didn't get all the support she needed from home.

    The one thing I learned from that program was that all of Beth's needs, from medical, to social to vocational were now on my shoulders. If I wanted her to have a job, I needed to seek out the vocational service. If I want Beth to have friends, I needed to seek out programs that would provide that for her.

    I can tell you it hasn't been easy for her or us. Don't give up though. Every day is a learning process! And if Alex is anything like Beth, she will forgive you over and over... :)

  2. I love your blog, and love keeping up with Alex. I hate to do this, and if it wasn't for my daughter, I wouldn't but I have entered Riley in a contest to be featured in a FANCY NANCY book, and would love for her to represent kids with a fancy extra chromosome, voting ends soon, so please help!ONLY 2 DAYS LEFT, PLEASE VOTE!!!

  3. The first part of your post could have been written by me about Cassie except that we are at that point of her educational process right NOW! We have a similar transitional plan here called the GO Project and the plan is for Cassie to go there next year. She is very excited about "graduation", however, I was told to say she will "walk the stage" for the same reason you were given for the "social" diploma. Although I am looking forward to her learning new skills at the GO Project, what I really would like to do is go back to elementary school. Life was much easier back then!!!

  4. Thanks everyone! rolling back time would be a great option....I sure would like to be 35 again..but we will plow ahead with new wrinkles, gray hair and a future for Alex where she has the tools to succeed!

  5. Well, quite the dilemma! I really appreciate seeing some parts of my future - I mean it! I love how you are handling it!


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