What could I have focused more on in Middle School?

Over the past several months I have asked parents of young adults with special needs, 
“What do you wish you had put more focus on during your child’s middle school years?”
 The answers varied and gave insight into the skills needed post high school.

1.  A parent, of a young adult with Down Syndrome, indicated that transportation was an issue.  The child used the local special education department bus while in school.  Mom remarked she wished she had worked on using a public bus and even calling a cab while in high school.

2.  A counselor from a camp commented on shoe tying.  She commented “Really, it takes me five to ten minutes to teach this skill, self-care skills matter.”  The ability to dress, bath and complete ones self-care was mentioned several times.

3.  A mom, whose son sustained a T11 spinal cord injury, indicated that transferring into and out of the car from both sides was a skill missing in her son’s repertoire.  The boy always sat in the passenger seat.  She mentioned that being able to transfer, into a vehicle on both the right and the left side of the car , might have been a skills that was easier to teach when he was a little smaller.

4.  One mom indicated she wished she had contacted DARS sooner.  In Texas, DARS helps young adults prepare for life after high school.  She wished she had reached out for their support prior to age 17.

5.  A common answer was that home chores need to be more of a focus.  A mom, of a 19-year-old with Autism, never understood the need for her son to take part in regular home chores.  They were so busy with school and therapy.  When her son entered a transitional program, many of the tasks were similar to chores he could have done at home. “….Chores such as putting away groceries, scanning groceries, sweeping the floor, sorting silverware and folding towels are tasks at the center and I wish I had focused more on that.”  The mom indicated her child would be one step closer to employment if she had implemented a home chore program earlier.

6.  An older gentlemen, with a tramatic brain injury, indicated handling money is a skill that he sees lacking in this generation.  “Real  money handling skills; with real people, in real situations” was his recommendation.

7.  A wheelchair athlete indicated that taking the time to let the child complete their own transfer skills was important.  She felt independence with transfers opens up opportunities missed by some kids whose parents just keep helping them transfer from one surface to another.

8.  A mom, of a young adult with Autism, indicated she wish she had moved her child into her own room at an earlier age.  She was single and never thought about the child’s sleeping habits prior to high school.  The mom indicated that changing this life long habit took years.

9.  A mom, of one twenty something with Cerebral Palsy, indicated weight management,  She felt the importance of selecting nutritional foods was a missing ingredient.  “Joey had always been so skinny.” she remarked  “After high school he was more in control of his food choice and less active…..He gained some weight”  She remarked that the added weight affected his walking skills.

10.  Time management and Organizational skills were mentioned by several parents.  Being able to keep appointments and stay organized makes a difference in so many life areas.  One mom indicated that organizational skills was the one reason her child had to attend a community college and lived at home for an extra year.  Her son, Steven wanted to attend a local, larger four-year university and live in the dorm.  Steven’s mom reported the decision was made, for  him to live at home and work on independence during his freshman year.  “I just did too much for him in middle school and high school.”  She remarked. “He could have been ready but I think I was not ready to let him grow up”

I would love to hear additional suggestions. 
Parents, of  adults with special needs,  are there tasks you wish you had emphasised more at an earlier age? 

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