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