Independence 101: Some Parents Already Know the Course

By Jo Ann Simons, Ruderman Family Foundation Disabilities Advisor and CEO Cardinal Cushing Centers

As the back to school season is upon us, we are flooded with advertisements for clothing, bedding and technology.  Just as often, there appear articles about how hard it is for parents to send their children to college, letting go or about helicopter parents going to college.

I smile. What amuses me is that these typical families have lots to learn from those of us with children with disabilities. We already know how important it is for our children to become independent. We have fiercely taught them self-advocacy skills and to speak for themselves.

We don’t argue with their teachers about the pettiness of grades or wring our hands about their looming independence. We had to fight long hard battles to just get them into school and then to be included and to have access to the regular curriculum. We also know we  are pushing them out into sometimes hostile and unwelcoming communities.

We already know that they need to be tough and independent and that Mom and Dad won’t always be there to fight their battles.  They have to be independent. We have to let go.

My son with Down syndrome learned those lessons. Last Sunday,  he called to tell me that he was spending the day on Martha’s Vineyard. And to tell me not to call him for a few days. He reminded me that I don’t have to check on him every day.

Sometimes I wish I had not taught him so well.

— Jo Ann Simons



Filed under Disabilities rights, Disabilities Trends, Down syndrome, In the Media, Uncategorized

5 responses to “Independence 101: Some Parents Already Know the Course

  1. I am both a parent and a Jewish educator and your story highlights several important issues for me. I am new to thinking about special needs and inclusion, but it seems to me that the conversation doesn’t often reflect the skills an abilities special needs students have that the other students don’t and the kind of modeling that can happen in that direction. This also goes for the parenting community and raises questions for me about what inclusion looks like on that level. My guess is that with involvement in inclusion some of these issues would become self evident, but perhaps it is worth being explicit about them.

  2. jayruderman

    Got two comments already

  3. Andrea,
    You raise good issues and I hope that others chime in. Our children have lots to teach and it is beyond the “they make is feel good”. Some years ago, my son was playing golf in the World Special Olympics in New Haven and his fellow campers from Ramah came to watch. I overheard one camper remark to another, “that looks really hard. He must have had to practice a lot”. Our children teach important lessons everyday that go unnoticed and uncelebrated.

    Jo Ann

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