I am the mother of a young man who is non-verbal, intellectually delayed, and on the autism spectrum. He is also a gentleman who loves holding doors open for people, loves helping strangers anytime he can. Like most men his age, he loves video games and pretty girls. Unlike most men his age, he is not planning a career. He will most likely never get married. Our highest ambitions for him involve things like Supported Employment and Group Homes. But that's okay.
After all, what are our highest ambitions for any of our children? For them to be a doctor, a lawyer, a businessman/woman? No, not when you get right down to it. Most parents I know have dreams for their children that are much more basic. For them to have a good life. A happy life. Friends, family, joy, love. My son will have all of that, in abundance.
I became an advocate while raising him. At first, I was advocating for him. Then I gradually started coaching his classmates' parents on how to advocate for their children. Then I met and coached other families. Then I discovered an amazing training and leadership program called Partners in Policymaking. Participating in this program was truly a life changing experience for me.
Partners in Policymaking is for parents of those with, or self advocates with, developmental disabilities. It is offered in almost every state of the nation, as well as many countries throughout the world. It started in Minnesota in 1987, and has turned out 23,000 graduates since them. If you are a person with a developmental disability, or the parent of a child with the same, I highly recommend seeking out and attending this program. It has made me a better parent, a better advocate, and a better person. I learned that I have power. If I don't like the way 'the system' works, I can change it. If I can't find a service or support that I need, I can create it, or be instrumental in helping it be created.
We are lucky here in Delaware, as our state offers a 'Junior Partners in Policymaking'. This past summer, both my son and my daughter attended that program. My daughter had already known her power to create those things she wants in her life but couldn't find, which is what drove her to build a support group for siblings of those with disabilities. It's a fledgling group, still trying to find its legs, but she is pushing for it with grace and persistence.
If you have a child with developmental disabilities, or have developmental disabilities yourself, look for Partners in Policymaking in your state, in your country. If you can't find it, track down whatever groups or agencies support this population, and let them know about it. Make it happen for yourself and those around you. It will help bring amazing positive change to your world.
If you want to learn more about the program, or hey, about my kids, let me know. :)