This weekend we had a chance to go have a visit with Tommy who is attending training at the Woodrow Wilson Workforce Center. I have (pretty awesome) parents that have this great little condo at Wintergreen, which is only twenty minutes from Fishersville. It's so perfect that it works out that we can get Tommy and spend the weekend with him there! It's so close to where our Tom-Tom is residing, working on getting job training, and thriving.
Independently, mind you. It is supported, yes, but he is doing it. It being life, responsibility, and school.
So, I got a text two weekends ago that read, “I’m ready, You can come get me.”
Uh-oh. He got his weekends mixed up. I was sure this was going to be very, very bad... but...
I called him, feeling a little (lot) nervous about how he would deal with the fact that we weren’t coming just then, but that it was the next weekend instead.
“Hey there, Bud,” I said after he answered, “It’s next weekend that we’re coming, not now. Are you OK? Can you deal?”
“Oh,” he replied, completely calm, “Alright, well, then I’ll see you next weekend, bye.”
OK. Well. He doesn’t like to talk on the phone. I get super long text messages all the time, but the phone calls are short.
“OK, love you, bye,” I replied. And that was it. No drama, no meltdowns, no problem. Mark and I looked at each other and shrugged, like, “huh, that was no big deal.” What a difference some maturity and time away makes.
So, this last weekend, we got the text that he was ready, and he couldn’t wait to show us his new dorm room, and he wanted to make sure his sisters were coming to get him, too, because he wanted to show them his new dorm room. We were already on our way to get him.
He is so proud of himself! Once the six week “trial” period of training is completed at Woodrow Wilson, the clients become “fully enrolled”. He got approved to try business technology, focusing on data entry, and after the first six weeks (which was two weeks ago) he was deemed successful, and became a fully enrolled student. Once he is fully enorolled, and doing well, he got the privelege of moving into the upgraded dorm. It has a better common area, and less people share a shower. This is important. Also, the common area doesn't have "just cleaning supplies" in it. Nice.
That text from him included some happy faces, which he almost never includes, and the message, of course. No phone call, though.
Thank the Lord that Woodrow Wilson is a place that has been made available to us. Tommy, I feel truly, would not have made these kinds of strides in his development, his independence, and his responsibility in any other place. The staff of people that work with Tommy are top notch, respectful, professional, and caring. The purpose of helping people with disabilities become more independent, and ready for work, is evident in every aspect of the curricula and environment of Woodrow Wilson.
Now, let me be clear. The challenges of autism and learning challenges are not gone in Tommy; indeed, they are part of what makes him so awesome (mama-pride). The preparation through evaluation, life-skills training, and now business training are the components that are helping him to be successful. Believe me, we still have our moments. He tantrumed when we “cleaned him up” over the weekend. He got a good showering, scrubbing, and shaving. He got his hair cut and his nails trimmed. Apparently, these are soul-sucking experiences for him.
Also, when we returned to the dorm on Sunday, the check-in person wasn’t available. Mark and I sent him to get his keys (they have to turn them in when they leave, then pick them up upon return) while we carried his laundry and snacks up to his room. After we were waiting (in the cold!) for ten minutes, I went down to see what was taking so long. I asked him what was going on, and he replied that he was waiting for his keys. Someone had told him the check-in person was next door at the other dorm, but it didn’t occur to him to go find her. Well... there you go. That’s autism, executive functioning issues still exist. It’s all good, though. We are all learning, right?
I can’t say enough how awesome it is to see Tommy doing so well. Once we got him settled, and his medicine turned back in at the pharmacy, he turned and hugged us and said good-bye. He was in a hurry to get back to his new dorm, where, in the common room, a few students had gathered to watch the original Star Wars (episode four), and he didn’t want to miss it. Hug, good-bye, and off he went. The nurse at the pharmacy smiled at us, and told us he was a pleasure, and for us to have a good afternoon. I felt a tiny bit sad, in a longing way. You know, like, there goes my baby... that is a man-child, and will be twenty next month, and how is that even possible? But, it’s what we have been praying for. We have been praying for a place and a situation where Tommy can thrive and learn to be independent, and for him to be able to feel successful. Mission accomplished (so far, anyway).
Keep calm, pray for your almost adult children, and carry on!