tBrian and I did our weekly food shopping yesterday at our local supermarket, a good way to practice some vocational skills in the community. Step by step, with lots of prompting and the promise of coveted cookies, Brian placed several items both in the shopping cart and on the belt at check-out. Overall, he did well, and I regained some confidence that we could possibly repeat this performance again. Our previous shopping experience had been cut short due to Brian’s behaviors after a brief time in the store that forced us to purchase the few items in the cart, then leave immediately thereafter. Yesterday was definitely a much better experience. Brian preferred to “socialize” with other customers and the employees, lol, but he ultimately got the job done.
Speaking of jobs…while reflecting further on our field trip to the Shop Rite, I was reminded of when I held my first official “job” at McDonalds at 16 years old, just a year older than Brian is right now, earning $2.00 per hour! Previously, I had delivered newspapers as a 11 year old, then started babysitting at 12 years old, but these jobs were hardly work compared to McDonalds! Boy, did we kids work for that minimum wage! I mainly worked the cash register, but also cooked burgers in the back, made shakes and fries, as well as stocking the freezer and taking out the garbage. This experience set the stage for a strong work ethic and the acquisition of a skill set that I found to be transferable to future careers/jobs. You had to be productive in this setting; there was really no time to goof off ( though we did that also in the crew break room, like inhaling helium from the Ronald McDonald helium dispenser, then talking like Alvin and the Chipmunks, lol!) As one of our managers always said, ” if you have time to lean, then it’s time to clean”- what a tyrant, lol!
Brian will never have these type of work experiences due to his extensive disabilities, but it is of paramount importance that he too, is productive in SOME way after his formal education ends. Many families share the same goal for their special children- these young adults must be engaged in something, be productive in some way, after school is over, as the alternative of doing nothing is like the kiss of death for our kids (and we parents). Post 21 programs are still emerging, but the concern is that the supply will not keep up with the demand. There are more children diagnosed with special needs (especially with autism) then ever before due to both awareness and earlier identification. I recently read that only 15% of special need student graduates have jobs, most of which are part time. That means 85% of these young adults are not working or doing anything. 🙁 My husband says that I obsess too much over this-with these type of dire statistics, it’s hard not to! Jim also says that we still have almost 7 years left until Brian finishes school. While that may be true, time will pass quicker than we think, and job/ program options should ideally be predetermined before graduation- but what exactly will those options be at that time?
This remains to be seen and when I think about it for too long, I get anxious and fear that Brian may be part of the 85% who will be at home because his needs are so many and complex and there won’t be any jobs or programs to accommodate those needs. I know that I am actually in very good company regarding this concern, it’s sort of like the elephant in the room that no one wants to point out, yet we are are all painfully aware of its existence… In instances like this, there is a good reason why the saying. ” one day at a time” is so important, as all of us struggle in our quest to find job solutions for our kids. While Brian’s school does have a post 21 program, there are no guarantees that he would be accepted into it when he graduates.
I keep telling myself that ultimately Brian will be somewhere, doing something, but it can’t just be anything, it has to be the right thing… Something that will match his specific skill set and needs, with the proper supports and personnel. Things that are costly and good staff can be hard to find. Here I go with the obsessing again….
I love hearing about or reading the various stories of employers hiring disabled workers for the service industry, like coffee shops or restaurants, both locally and nationwide. There are also more special schools who offer ” after 21 programs” ( or will in the future) because of the present and future need for them. Local businesses are also more amenable to hiring disabled workers or outsourcing work for them to do. This is definitely progress, with hopefully more to come… I can personally envision Brian as a Greeter at Walmart, or a host at a restaurant, where he greets customers at the door and shows them to their tables. Brian’s sociable nature would be a good match for such positions- we would just have to make sure that he gets back to work and doesn’t sit down or want to leave with the customers, lol!
We will have to see what happens and be open to job opportunities, whether to receive or possibly create them ourselves, and that, of course, is the scary part.. A good friend once shared with me: ” I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future”…It is my belief that God will continue to be faithful in providing for ALL of Brian’s needs, despite my fear and lack of faith at times. So far, God’s provision track record has been pretty darn good in Brian’s life, and mine too, for that matter, even if the timing was not what we wanted or expected. Ultimately, everything will work out… Even our Coat of Arms/Family Crest for “Boyle” ( my maiden name) is the oak tree with the motto: “The Lord Will Provide”- I think that is a clear sign…
May our special children experience the fullness of God’s provisions according to their EVERY need, now and always…Until we meet again, thanks for reading! 😊❤️