Last week was April vacation week for Bridget. In our family, just because the kids are on vacation that does not mean the parents get a week off to go to Disney. With on. child in college and one child that is just as expensive, vacation week looks every other week, except the kids stay home and watch too much TV and eat way too much junk food!
Our live-in nanny is currently living her best college life, as she should be! Since unlike most 14-year olds Bridget cannot stay home unattended watching videos on YouTube and eating junk food. Since I cannot take the week off (my paid time of is saved for her doctors appointments), I got a glimpse of what our life may be like in 8 years when she is no longer a cared for by the school system.
First, she learned how to change a tire (maybe working in an automotive shop is in her future?
When both her dad and I had to work, we had to get inventive. A friend took Bridget for the day (and treated her to lunch at the 99!) but otherwise Bridget went to work with me.
We are lucky, Bridget is very adaptable and pretty much goes with the flow, as long as there are snacks.
Thankfully I work for a company that does not mind bring your daughter to work week because it is school vacation week. Yet of course I went “there”
There to the place when I wondered how we are going to handle Bridget’s time when she is twenty-two. My thoughts went to I hope she gets a job to holy crap I am going to be sixty years old and looking for daycare for my forever six year old. My hope is through vocational training, Bridget will some day enter the workforce.
Vocational training looks different for children like Bridget. They have to work on pre-vocational skills, like staying on task or following a two-step direction. For example right now Bridget is putting away the silverware, but we have to remind her that the little forks go in a different spot than the larger forks. When she puts away the laundry, that not all the clothes go in the same drawer. Though I kind of see her logic in that! However we have to remind Bridget that after the clothes are away, she needs to bring the basket back to the laundry room. Another focus of pre-training is the ability to leave Bridget on a task if she is unsupervised. Will she be able to not be distracted by shiny objects and wander off? Will she actually be safe and valued by her employer?
I would never expect her fellow employees to be her babysitter, but in some aspects they will become just that. I think back to Bridget’s prior school. Her peers were awesome, including Bridget and bringing her along with them. But in fifth grade, the gap was widening and they were becoming her caregivers, not her peers. Helping her wash her face when it was covered in spaghetti sauce. Making sure she didn’t leave the playground. It was a natural transition that I will be forever thankful for, that these typical children showed such kindness.
Her current school explained the pre-vocational training to me, that we are scaffolding skills now to hopefully prepare Bridget at 18y for the workforce. If she is able. It’s the “if she is able” term that concerns me. Not putting limits on what she can accomplish. I can see her being a hostess in a restaurant and telling patrons where to sit and that they were ordering pancakes. But will she understand the POS system, the way the seating charts work for the waitresses, that the customer actually gets to choose what they want to eat? I don’t want a pity hire, but rather something Bridget can find pride in.
I also wonder if that is a reasonable expectation. After all, most kids do not start working until they are fourteen. Am I setting an unattainable goal for my forever six year old? Or am I setting a goal with hope that she once again defies anyone who dares to say she cannot do something?
I’m going with choice number two. I am setting a vocational goal for Bridget with mini-achievements along the way. She might never hold a job, and I will find a way to be okay with that.
Because she will always be a member of her community. Even if that means in the eight years, every day is take Bridget to work day.
Have you seen these posts about disability employment on Ellen Stumbo’s blog? They feel very relevant to your post!
And her Unexceptional Moms podcast episode about disability and employment: https://unexceptionalmoms.libsyn.com/we-need-better-employment-training-for-our-disabled-kids