And just like that… He's back home!
So, for those of you who have been following the "Tommy journey" (Life Skills) read on!
Tommy finished up his life skills training at Woodrow Wilson Workforce (formerly the Woodrow Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center) last week! I can’t believe how quickly 9 weeks just went by. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but alas, I am a slow learner when it comes to judging time. While summer was flying by, Tommy was doing life-skills training in the lovely Blue Ridge Mountains.
He learned things like how to keep his room clean, and do his laundry without being asked (and every week), mind you. Tommy had to live with a roommate and negotiate bathroom cleaning schedules with six other young people. He had to learn time management and get up for job readiness classes without the mom-person telling him to get up, get dressed, and go to class! Tommy had a guidance counselor/ social worker in charge of his case, and other people in place to remind him to do daily life type things, but he was largely responsible for keeping himself organized and put together.
My mama heart overfloweth.
I can't describe how thankful I am for DARS (Department of Aging and Rehabilitation Services). It is hard to put into words how hopeful and relieved I am all at the same time. If I had known about DARS ten years ago, I might not have felt as frantic about launching Tommy into adulthood. His senior year of high school would probably have been much more relaxed. I would not have had to worry so, so much. I do hover on the worry-meter way too much, although that is just how it goes in our family, especially for me. I am so hopeful, now, though that Tommy has some options for his future, and supports in place to help him succeed. We will know more in a few weeks, but it looks like he will return to Woodrow Wilson to start some job training, hopefully around the start of the new year.
When we went to pick him up, we encountered many of those people who Tommy has been with over the past nine weeks. Tommy, apparently, was known as the “jokester” in the student health clinic. They informed me that he had a joke for the nurses every morning and evening when he went to get his medicine. I was like, “whaaaat?!?” So, I know my son is funny. He actually has a pretty good sense of humor, especially for someone on the autism spectrum. He tells jokes, and people that know him know to be patient with him, with his stories, and with his jokes because he’s communicating when he is sharing these stories, and jokes. Can I tell you how worried I was (still, I am) about people getting frustrated with him while he is just trying to communicate in his own special way? Well, apparently, some people get it, and they enjoy Tommy instead of just merely tolerating him.
His counselor told us that he was a “star student”, that he worked hard and was able to express his frustration appropriately. He was respectful toward everyone. He was liked, and he didn’t cause any problems. Again, wow. Years of therapies, strategies, IEPs, and praying obviously have had an impact on my Tom-Tom. Did I mention my heart was full to bursting? Can you hear me smiling in my words? I am proud.
Already, Tommy is fitting right back in with us. He is telling his jokes and making up his stories about how he dominates the world with a sword, honor, and a groundhog. He is still frustrated over the interdimensional-multi-verse-time-travel conundrum, but he's working on it. In the meantime, he will go back to volunteering at the library. While Tommy is enjoying his "break", he is also looking forward to returning to Woodrow Wilson. Some independence has been good for him! We (all of us at our house) are good with that, and we are enjoying him while he is home, for now.
Keep calm, and please love the people that work with people that have special needs.
And parent on!