I thought that maybe I would give everyone an update on how Elizabeth is doing in her life.
Elizabeth is 20 years old now. And she is in a college program at our local university.
The program is set up such that the students with special needs are have buddy/coaches who are also students at the university, who are with them throughout the day. To help, teach and guide them. With the goal of independence. These buddies are typical developing young adults.
They meet each morning to start the day in a certain room, it is like their home base.
As I said, the program is set up such that “buddy/coaches” are with her throughout the day on campus. They are her supports and as the time at the university has increased, the buddies have slowly decreased their presence. Which has increased Elizabeth’s independence.
She gets to audit classes on campus as well as take classes taught by the director of the program. She hits the rec center on campus to workout. And she enjoys lunch with her friends on campus each day.
She has internships on campus because another big focus of this program is future employment.
She just began her second semester in January. Her first semester was an amazing success. She really loves being there. She told me she feels very proud of herself. And truth be told, Elizabeth is so social that she was truly ready to get out and experience life.
Of course, with her disorders, growing independence while making sure she is safe and well, is challenging. And it is challenging to grow independence when Elizabeth’s disorders make it so hard to do this, even if what we are teaching is something fun or useful. I know that her dyspraxia makes processing steps and doing them difficult. And this has always been hard for her. And we know her sensory issues can add great anxiety to any situation.
But something really wonderful occurred recently:
Elizabeth started to talk about being independent and doing things on her own. She even drafted a letter to her buddies telling them she wanted to be independent and would ask for help is she needed it.
And even more wonderful was her request for us to teach her things to help her get there. I could tell that this conversation about independence was different from ones we had prior because she was the one leading the conversation, not me or anyone else.
And since that talk with us, we have made many changes to our typical day to day activities because now they are done with the idea to “stop and teach.”
We really love seeing her strive for this independence, this very thing we have wanted for her for so long. Because we know how she “works”, we know that it will be a slow, but steady process. But there is something so much easier about teaching and helping her since the desire and want comes from her this time.
So we welcome in this new chapter in our lives.
Every. Single. Day. As she heads into her building on campus, I think about her life and how far she has come and I am so very proud of her.
I wish everyone a peaceful month.
Michele Gianetti is a mom of three, registered nurse, and published author ("I Believe in You," "Emily's Sister"). She writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia. Follow her story since the beginning here.