1. Learn to Let Go
New beginnings for my son. He’s enrolled in a vocational program over on the west side of the city to get his CDL (commercial driver’s license). After three class sessions, today’s the day he takes the test to get his learner’s permit.
When I realized that he’d be driving on Rt 490 every day, I settled my heart and asked God to keep him safe. It’s not that I worry about my son’s driving ability – I worry about other people.
2. Learning …
If someone had told me when my son was born that I’d still be parenting almost 30 years later … ? And, why is that? When special needs kids grow up they still need support and guidance.
Early childhood interventions of developmental delays back in the ’80s had different labels: ADHD was the catchall phrase and underneath that, a host of other challenges: anxiety disorders, auditory processing delays, etc.
Some things change over time. Some things stay the same. ADHD morphed into Asperger’s Syndrome Disorder (ASD) which recently morphed into … Autism.
There are clear road maps to follow in those early years because everything you put into place for your child takes place within a preschool – grade 12 environment. What no one tells you is that you’ll be making things up as you go once your son or daughter graduates. After almost 10 years of parenting after high school, here’s what I’ve learned about that:
1. Learn to Trust Yourself
If you walk into a meeting with a social service agency dedicated to working with adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities and, you get the feeling that something’s not quite right, listen to that feeling. Don’t feel that you have to make a decision to work with this agency right then.
The year after my son graduated from high school, through a series of connected steps, we interviewed with a now defunct agency. At the time, there was nothing to suggest that this was an agency in crisis – that, in a very short time, they’d be out of business – except for a twinge in my gut. I ignored that feeling, signing my son up with that agency for job coaching and on-the-job-training.
It was a disaster.
Except that it served as the platform to get my son to the next place in his journey: a job that he found through his network of friends which got him an interview which he handled completely on his own which resulted in his turning in his written two week notice to his first employer – the company who hired him through this inept agency.
2. Learn to Outsource because everybody does and it’s the smart thing to do
When you find out that your son or daughter has to put a resume together, outsource it! You’ll provide all of the content but don’t, for a minute, think that your son/daughter will be creating it. Find someone who does this for a living – or tap into your own network of family and friends to find someone who can easily create a resume and pay them for their skill and for their time.
3. (We) learned: Jobs that suck will teach self-advocacy
In a perfect world, companies really are what their mission statement says they are: team-focused, compassionate, open to learning from each other; everyone working towards a common goal and purpose. The reality can be something quite different which my son discovered less than a month into what we thought was going to be a great job.
In addition to handling the day-to-day routine of his job, he had to figure out how to handle coworkers who were rude to him; who got in his face and told him that he wasn’t any good at his job, who yelled at him because they assumed (wrongly) that he’d arrived an hour late for the Saturday morning shift.
When they weren’t yelling at my son, they were yelling in general about long-held grudges towards senior management.
This could be any job, in any industry … and, it’s all happened to someone we know. Or to us.
And, it’s inexcusable … and, so very sad.
The challenge is to shut that kind of negative verbal abuse down.
The secret to this is to have one general phrase that always works; a non-threatening reply to a rude remark that addresses those words instead of verbally attacking the speaker. Like this, the reply I taught my son:
“Your language is unprofessional and I don’t appreciate being talked to that way.”
Before you say this, take a deep breath, count to 3 silently and as you speak, make sure you look that rude person in the eye. Then, shut up. Say nothing and just wait.
It works. Like a charm.
4. Learning … that we’re all the same. Really
We are the best and the worst of each other. How wonderful it would be if we all came from a place of integrity and kindness. Just because we don’t now doesn’t mean that this is impossible to achieve.