I have 2 “adult” children, my oldest boy and my oldest girl. Thomas and Alyssa. Thomas recently turned 21 this past July and at that age the Board of Ed was no longer responsible for educating him in special ed so Thomas graduated high school. Alyssa is my typical adult child and she’s 19 years old attending college.
Thomas is home this weekend and we went to Target to buy him pajamas and a new comforter for his bed along with a new blanket and a couple of t-shirts. Thomas picked everything out himself and he chose really nice things. He knows what he likes and what he doesn’t like. And there’s no talking him into any thing or any situation. He definitely has a mind of his own and I’m so proud of him for that. While at his residential school Thomas also does a great job in advocating for himself, I’m told by his social worker.
Many times in this past 24 hours that Thomas has been home he’s told me, “I’m a man…an adult…I graduated.” I of course agreed with him no matter how much it pinged at my heart. The past 21 years have literally flown by. I can recall almost every moment of Thomas’ childhood no matter how chaotic and frustrating it was.
Twenty one years ago I was given this special needs child, this gift and I was terrified up until only a few years ago that I failed him terribly as a parent. Thomas was a wonderful baby, he had such a pleasant disposition and was just great to be around. It wasn’t until was about a year old did the chaos begin with him hitting me and throwing things. I know every parent has to baby proof their house but we had to go above and beyond even with toys because of Thomas’ actions. And things only got worse and more chaotic as he grew older.
It wasn’t until Thomas was 12 years old did we receive his diagnosis of “static encephalopathy”. It means brain damage that won’t get worse but it won’t get better either. Tommy and I felt as though we were punched in the stomach at that time.
Fast forward to today and my son, my grown man of a son is pleasant, has manners and is just an all around “nice” person. I know this is due in part to the residential treatment he received. Making that decision was not easy nor was it what we really wanted to do. But sometimes what you want and what you have to do are polar opposites. The steady, structured environment the residential school provided was what we could not provide and it was exactly what Thomas needed to thrive.
We are currently waiting on the State’s office to approve Thomas moving to a group home. I’m excited for him to move on to the next stage in his life. When the move happens Thomas will have house mates and he’ll attend a program during the day hopefully a vocational program that will allow him to do something constructive. Until then we wait.
I’m so proud of my Thomas. No matter how old he gets he’ll always be “mine”. Don’t get me wrong I know all my children will always be mine but I knew from a very early age with Thomas that he would be always with me. It’s hard to explain but I remember that day distinctly. Thomas was a year and half old and I was leaving a specialist appointment. At that appointment I was told that Thomas would probably need special ed services when he was older. I knew right there and then walking down those stairs at that young age of his that my Thomas would always be just that; mine. And I was right. He is mine.