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Kristen is a home­maker, home­schooler, and a home­keeper. Her experience includes nineteen years of practice, raising three kids, a husband, and a dog. Writing about her life helps her stay sane. She believes that sharing stories helps others by providing opportunities to share advice (and helpful hints) about homeschooling, and raising kids on the autism spectrum, while supporting marriages and families that are striving to thrive.

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Shannon Enos is a wife, recovering Pinterest addict, and homeschooling mom of two young girls. Her hobbies include analyzing music with her husband, pretending she’s going to finish that crocheting project she started 4 years ago, and making lists of things she has already completed just so she can cross them off. Shannon values truth, education, the arts, open minds, humor, and “Nashville" binges on Hulu. She believes that learning happens everywhere, whether you’re paying attention or not.

 



Pink Owl

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Tommy is taking his first steps toward Independence!!  
 
Monday (yesterday, as I’m writing this) was the day we had been waiting for since last spring!  This was the long awaited day that Tommy would finally  go to the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center in Fishersville, Virginia. He is there without any familial representation (to a mother this means “all alone”). There are at least twenty other individuals there for their evaluation week and there are about 380 students on campus at any given time, receiving training or participating in supportive work environments.  He is not, I know, all alone.  It is the first time, though, ever, that he has been anywhere overnight without someone who is family to him.  
 
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He is being evaluated this week for job readiness, job skills, driver readiness, transitional living skills, career options, etc.  I have been "ready" for this for a long time, meaning all this year that he really didn’t have much to do except volunteer at our library on Thursdays. So, I was caught off-guard by the sudden feelings of wanting to insist on holding on to him just a little bit longer.  It was hard to be brave and confident and exude composure that conveyed that this was an entirely joyous occasion!  I fretted over things like, had I prepared him enough?  Was he ready to get up and go to bed on his own?  Would he remember to brush his teeth and shower? Would he remember to wake up (on time)? These are things all mothers worry about when they are sending their kids off to college, or the military, I know.  For our family, though, these are not things he does without reminders. Like, for everything, he needs a reminder.  I’m not even exaggerating, for example:  Did you change your underwear? Did you remember to use soap?  Did you remember to rinse?  What about deodorant?   I guess I’ve guided Tommy for everything for so long that I was just overwhelmed that I wouldn’t be there this week physically with him.  It’s weird.  It’s wonderful.  It’s terrifying.
 
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The Wilson Workforce Center is amazing, though.  Everybody was helpful.  Every person we encountered was encouraging.  The whole check-in process was streamlined and we moved quickly: talking with student health and a counselor, to getting his room key, and making his bed.  As my daughters (lovingly and gently) led me away from Tommy after I said goodbye, we encountered staff that were cheering me on, telling me it was going to be ok, telling me that by the evening he would have friends. I really needed to hear that.  I really did keep it together, too, even though my oldest daughter thought I was about to lose it. She was so sweet about it, though, and protective at the same time.
The girls and I left him in good hands and we immediately proceeded to Target to get special drinks from Starbucks.  It’s all good. I can’t hardly wait to talk to him tonight!  He was very brave, too, by the way.  He assured me that he was fine.  He was very tick-y, though… lots of flapping.  The beauty of going to a place like the Woodrow Wilson Center is that no one stared, or indicated that he was weird.  Everyone treated him like the adult he is, and me as the mom of said adult.  It was pretty cool. It was pretty weird. Did I already say that?!  I didn’t once speak for him, because I wasn’t asked anything; everything was directed to Tommy.  I guess it’s time to start letting that happen.
 
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I want to to impress upon the parents/guardians/care-givers of children with special needs:  there are great resources in the community!  The trick is knowing they are there.  The dis-Ability Center in Fredericksburg, DARS (the Dept. of Aging and Rehabilitation), and your county’s Parent Resource Center exist for YOU.  I would not have known to contact DARS for this program if I had never gone to the Parent Resource Center in Stafford.  Aging and rehabilitation are not cue words to me indicating services for kids with autism.  Yet, this agency has been the most instrumental in getting us realistically pointed toward independence.  And our social worker there has been wonderful.
 
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I will keep everyone posted about how our Tommy is doing. Parenting is the hardest job out there that most of us have in common.  We need to celebrate each and every baby step, milestone, and success.
 
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Keep Calm, and Parent ON!

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