My daughter Adrienne is about to ‘age out’ of the Snoqualmie Valley School District Special Education Program that she has been in since she was 3-years old. She is now 21. She has had thousands of hours of life skills training, education and support that we are so grateful for. Going forward she will have none.
For any neuro typical child this is an exciting time: to go to college, start a career and a family. For a person with a developmental disability, it is very different. Adrienne is very excited for her future, as I am, but it comes with immense stress and worry.
Adrienne got a job with the help of a government program and a job coach. She works one day a week for 2 hours, which we are so thankful for as he isn’t ready for any more hours. Typically, though, from what I hear from Adrienne’s friends, they work a couple days a week for 4 hours. More than likely, a person with disabilities will never make more than the minimum wage.
55% of adults with disabilities live with their parents and most are unemployed. Adults with developmental disabilities are eligible for Social Security help from the government. They receive a little over $700 per month for their living expenses, including rent. If they have a job their payments are reduced.
Can you imagine what it would be like to live on $700 per month? They can never own more than $2000 or their benefits will be cut. They say you can own a home or car, but how is that possible when you can never have more than $2000 in the bank? They are kept in extreme poverty their whole lives. Though ‘Special Needs’ Trust Funds can help protect any inheritance they receive.
Parents find it difficult to work while raising their child so there is a huge loss of income from that decision. Often times it isn’t a choice, you financially couldn’t afford to work and find the special care your child needs while you were away. Not only do you have to prepare for your own retirement but you have to plan for theirs too. What will happen to them when you are gone?
Adrienne will never drive and will always need support, as she will not be able to live on her own. As a parent this is a huge worry for the future.
I am not writing this for pity. It’s just to raise awareness and understanding of what it’s like to raise someone with a disability. You hear so much about the young children with autism, etc., but they all grow up to be adults and the disability never goes away. I believe we have a social crisis with how we support these individuals.
Here is my request…
If you are in a position to hire or recommend a person with disabilities, please do so. Their days need to be filled with meaningful activities. They want to have a purpose – just like anyone else. How we treat and include these individuals teaches others how to accept them as well.
Friendships are difficult for people with disabilities. They are so often misunderstood. If you know someone with disabilities, take time to be their friend. They don’t have many. If you know a parent of a child with disabilities, take them out for a drink, they need it! Thank you for reading this and caring for these special people in all our lives.
It takes a village.