The months leading up to Kathleen’s graduation in June 2009 were a roller coaster of emotions. Kathleen passed the California High School Exit Exam (a requirement of all high school students in order to receive a diploma in California) and would not be able to stay another three years and attend the life skill classes that were available to her until her 21st birthday. While we were so proud and thrilled with Kathleen’s achievement, we were asking ourselves “What do we do now??” So the search began and I soon discovered that not much existed – or not what I thought would be best for Kathleen. Kathleen was first recommended to a program that had day services, transition for young adults, life skills development and vocational services. She was assessed for a week and didn’t like it at all. The next two programs were just out of the question. Having exhausted all suitable and non-suitable programs, I called Kathleen’s case manager for more suggestions. However he was on vacation and I was directed to the case manager on call. I explained what we had done so far and what I was looking for. She listed various programs which I had already contacted or Kathleen and I had visited until she said “Hope Services”. After a brief description of their program, it sounded perfect! It was a work program and had adult education classes. So the following day, we visited Hope but came away disappointed. The clients needed to be totally independent! Kathleen needed an aide. What we didn’t realize was that Kathleen could attend the classes independent of the work program and so within the month, Kathleen started Hope Services. But it took a lot of searching, phone calls, questions and visiting many programs to find one that was appropriate for Kathleen. Almost three years later, Kathleen is still thriving!! She loves being on her computer and Ipad, reading through Facebook, sending emails and texting. She is quite a computer nerd! She also enjoys the Sunday comics, scrabble and is a great help around the house! She still has dystonic episodes several days a week and almost everyday during the winter. But she is learning to calm herself which makes the episodes end faster. When I think back to the day Kathleen was diagnosed, we had no idea what the future held and after reading the medical journal article about AHC, the outcome looked bleak. Kathleen has far surpassed what we thought she would be able to do. She is both physically and mentally challenged but her tenacity and drive outshine her disability. We are blessed to have her in our lives. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but Kathleen teaches those she touches each day, that we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff. Life is good!
The months leading up to Kathleen’s graduation in June 2009 were a roller coaster of emotions.
Update In 2012, Kathleen changed programs. The new program was a mixed blessing; she now goes 9:00am-3:00pm four days a week, travel time was now only 10 minutes vs. 25 minutes on a good day and we traded academic classes for a more simplistic structured program. Kathleen enjoys the program and has made a whole group of new friends. One day a week, she goes to the mall, has lunch, visits with the friends, and shops for items she might need. It is a great way for her to practice her math and reading skills all the while interacting with the community. We continue to encourage independence, which has been relatively easy because Kathleen wants to do most things herself. We have also started talking about Kathleen moving out into a group home. Like all things, it will be a process.
We are blessed to have her in our lives.