Ready or Not?
It was probably about five years after Cody graduated from high school when Cody’s case worker called us and began asking questions regarding our thoughts about the possibilities of Cody seeking work. Funds were still limited in Missouri and finding programs the state would pay for had already proven to be a serious challenge. But I had serious reservations about those prospects. I really felt like Cody needed to learn more problem solving skills, life skills and other necessary social skills before he entered the work force. How could he be expected to function in the work place with so few of these skills on board? I began to think about social dilemmas that could arise from others who did not understand my son. He still had a habit of thinking that it was OK to just take what wasn’t his even though we had been working very hard to instill in him, that was not acceptable. But the longer he sat at home without any social interaction with others, the more a gradual regression began to ensue. This was not a situation which gave me an easy feeling, either. So I opted to at least check it out.
We went to the local vocational rehab office to fill out the paperwork. We talked with a vocational counselor who told us that we would be given a list of agencies to choose from. These agencies would evaluate Cody for different types of skills that could be used in a workplace, provide a staff member to accompany him to the job site and then that staff member would provide any assistance and counseling he would need to complete tasks during his time at work. All we would have to do is to provide transportation to the vocational rehab office each day, where they would meet.
It all sounded very good, but shortly after our initial meeting Cody broke his foot and we could not complete the process.
After Cody’s foot had healed we began the process of pursuing day habilitation services further. Cody’s time in a walking boot had given me the opportunity to rethink the whole idea of sending him into a work environment without the social skills and life skills I so desperately felt he needed. The more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I became with the idea of him going into the work place without the ability to ask questions, to act appropriately around others and to handle the stress of an ever-changing environment. How could sending him into a situation like this unarmed be conducive to good self-esteem and self-confidence? I could just envision my son engaged in a full-scale meltdown after failure to thrive in his work, day after day all because I, his mother, who is supposed to love him and be on the lookout for his welfare overall, sent him into this circumstance unprepared for what he would face, simply because there was no funding to pay for other day programs which would have been much more applicable for meeting his more immediate needs. So once again research and telephone calls filled our time, when we were not at work, to continue to seek any possible day rehabilitation programs out there that state funding would pay for.
It was several more months before day hab services became available, but it was well worth the wait. Once a week Cody’s staff takes him for community integration activities or a social setting where the staff is there to supervise and instruct Cody on proper social interaction, purchasing meals at restaurant, shopping for items on a list and then paying for them with an appropriate amount of money.
All of these things Cody is now learning will teach him patience, consideration toward others, to focus on a particular task from start through completion, proper actions to take in the work place regarding his time and work ethic, to converse appropriately with those around him and ask to questions to those in a supervisory role when he is in doubt. Cody looks forward to those days his staff comes and he is rewarded for a job well done, whether it is preparing his own meals, completing a job successfully with few or no prompts at all, counting money and knowing he is able to express himself in a manner in which he is understood. Once he is able to firmly grasp hold of these talents in a firm manner, then employment can be a consideration and his success at the end of a work day can then be something for him to be proud of. But from my standpoint right now, it is just a blessing to see him begin to learn what life in the real world of adulthood is all about.