Families have fears and concerns about the future of their family member with a disability. This section discusses how to plan for lifelong support and to build a bright, productive future for people with disabilities!
Learn to see what they do have and can do
Target Population: Any age or ability
As you look at your young toddler or elementary school aged child, it may be hard to envision what life will be like for them when they leave school and enter the world of work, personal relationships and independence. When your child has disabilities, it can be downright overwhelming to think about the future when you are struggling to meet the demands of day-to-day. We can get so caught up in the so called limitations of our child with disabilities that we forget to focus on the interests and abilities that they do have. Sometimes, it is others, like doctors, therapists, teachers, friends and even family who are quick to compare our child to "normal" children and point out what they cannot do. Perhaps you have heard comments like "Tommy will never do this", or "Mary shouldn't try that". The future may become something to fear, and we find ourselves procrastinating the planning and guiding that comes naturally with children who do not have disabilities. After all, what do you do if your daughter can't walk or talk? What do you do if your son doesn't communicate or relate to others?
Look for potential
The first step is to look for the wonderful potential there is in EVERYONE! Every person has a gift to give, something to share that makes them unique and worth loving. You understand this as the parent of your child with disabilities. You see the intrinsic worth and abilities of your son or daughter when others may not. You also have the wonderful capacity to share this worth with others; to share the abilities that may not be apparent to those that are not with your child on a daily basis. One way to do this is called "Futures Planning".
But before we go into Futures Planning, you need to take another step: DREAM! Don't let the dreams you have for your child be hindered by what others may say. Keep thinking about a bright, happy future for your son or daughter or sibling or parent with disabilities. You can plan for your family member as you would for any other person, you just may need to be a little more creative!
Okay, let's talk about Futures Planning
While those who know your family member with disabilities may be the first to point out their shortcomings, with the proper guidance they may also be your best resource for planning a joyful and meaningful future! These are the people who already have a relationship with your child/family member and once you get them thinking, they will help you make the "impossible" happen! And you don't need to wait until a certain age - the sooner you develop plans, the more you will feel at peace knowing that there is a future and it isn't all up to you!
Find Out What is Important
Each of us has our own dreams and our own journeys to take through life. We all want to have opportunities to meet new people, try new things, and to have the ability to change what we are doing such as where we work, who we live with, and where we live. We all want to have what and who is important to us as a part of our everyday lives; to have people to be with, things to do and places to be! We want to feel supported by and contributors to our communities. Underlying all of this, we want to stay healthy and safe, but on our own terms. Some of us like to get up early, some like to sleep late. Some like to move at a fast pace and some like to take their time. Some people like quiet, while other like noise. In other words, we want to live life at a pace that is comfortable and in an environment that feels good.
We need to help all of these things, or as many as possible, come to pass for our loved one with disabilities. They want to be able to make choices about their lives, just as we do, so it is important to let them be a part, and their desires be the focus, of the process.
Remember that choice is about:
Focus on the strengths of the individual, rather than limitations. Use the Law of Abundance to guide your process: what a person gives out, comes back to them, and often it is multiplied! An individual with disabilities has much to give! Sometimes we get caught up in all of the needs of our family members, and forget to realize all that they can give to us and to others. Allow them to give it - then watch all that comes back to them (and to you!).
Find out what is important!
What is important to the person
Hold a planning meeting
The next step is to find out what choices are and are not doable. Here is where you want to tap into the people that know you and your family member best! Get them together and let them help you brainstorm about the wants of the individual. Let them be creative and meet in an atmosphere of "anything goes". Sometimes the wildest ideas can get people thinking in a new direction and wonderful, creative and achievable plans are developed!
You will want to begin your planning meeting by hearing what the friends, neighbors and family members admire and appreciate about your son or daughter and what you all have found to be important to him/her. Some families who have hosted planning meetings discovered that it is a good idea to meet first with close family members before inviting a larger circle of interested parties into the planning. (Some family members may feel hurt or left out if they are not a part of the initial stages of the process.) However, you DO want to bring in others to help with the planning because then they will feel a part of the plan and be more inclined to help carry it out!
If possible, keep your planning meetings to not more than an hour to an hour and a half long. However, you may want to include a meal or party following the meeting. Celebrate the life of this wonderful person and acknowledge the steps you are taking to plan for a bright future! You may also find that as you switch from a businesslike planning meeting into a different mode of social activity, people keep thinking about the planning as they interact and watch the interactions of the individual and more ideas may be generated.
Be sure to prepare for the meeting
Be sure to do your homework and prepare before inviting others to meet. They may have other things to add to your findings, so give them that opportunity. Who do you invite to your planning meeting? Invite EVERYONE that has an interest in your family member with disabilities. Believe that there are many people who want to help and be involved, but don?t know how. This could be family, friends, peers, neighbors, church members, bus drivers and bus aides, teachers and classroom aides, therapists, medical professionals, counselors, advocates, support coordinators, case managers, direct care providers, the clerk at the store or anyone that you feel could contribute to making the life of this individual better!