Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Move toward Independence

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Move toward Independence

Article excerpt

Mindy recalls Allan's excitement, as he ran into the kitchen and said," `Ma, Ma, Ma! Guess what? There's an opening for me in a new house!'"

A single mother raising a child who has a developmental disability has an overwhelming responsibility. Mindy F., of Brooklyn, New York, however, was also caring for her mother, whose health was deteriorating.

Mindy has faced this situation for the past 24 years, and she has handled it with considerable strength and ability. It definitely helps that Mindy and her son Allan have a close, friendly relationship and truly enjoy each other's company. "He's my buddy!" says Mindy.

As Mindy's mother's health worsened after a stroke, Mindy grew increasingly concerned about the amount of time and energy that Allan spent caring for her. Although Allan loves his grandmother and wants to help her, the level of support that she needs far exceeded what Allan could provide. Allan's devotion to his grandmother made it difficult for him to take care of his own life. He started missing days at his day habilitation program and skipping important therapy and socialization groups.

Seven years ago, Mindy and Allan began receiving counseling, medical, and other services with the help of a social worker from YAI/National Institute for People with Disabilities. Among the primary goals of counseling was to prepare both of them for Allan's eventual move into a group home.

Allan's dream of achieving greater independence came closer to fruition when a new YAI residence was being developed in a nearby Brooklyn neighborhood. Mindy recalls Allan's excitement, as he ran into the kitchen and said," `Ma, Ms, Ma! Guess what? There's an opening for me in a new house!'" Mindy greeted the news with mixed emotions. On one hand, she felt that moving away would allow Allan to develop his life skills and promote independence, on the other hand she thought, "`Oh my God, he's going to leave me.'"

Overall, however, Mindy was thrilled for Allan, and went to take a look at the new place while it was still being renovated. Mindy says, "I thought immediately, `This is really nice, it's roomy, and in a great area.'"

Allan's eyes light up as he talks about having his own room, with his own phone and television. He'll be able to spend time with the other five residents when he chooses, both in the house and during community activities. Allan is also looking forward to doing a lot of cooking in the house's newly-renovated kitchen. "I like to cook desserts like strawberry shortcake with whipped cream and brownies." And, if Allan decides he wants to invite his Mom over to try some of his famous strawberry shortcake one night, she's only a 10-minute bus ride away.

Allan will work on acquiring other skills while living in the residence, including learning to travel independently around the new neighborhood. He already travels on his own to a work readiness program where he is in the process of finding a job. The staff will also help him fit his new job into his daily routine, working on punctuality and dressing appropriately for work. Allan also wants to learn money management, and he'd like to join a gym. These are all important life skills that will help Allan build a fulfilling and meaningful life for himself.

The neighborhood is close enough that Mindy and Allan are already familiar with it. "Allan used to play soccer near there when he was a kid," Mindy explains. "We know people there. And the neighbors are very thoughtful and accepting. …

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