Join Our Road Trip to Employment

My son, Andy, and I love road trips. Our whole family loves road trips. We usually end up somewhere wonderful with family and friends–like Boston, Utah, or Washington DC. And we have lots of fun along the way while lip syncing and eating at hole-in-the-wall dives, but we also deal with bumps in the road, car problems, boredom, and arguments. This is a great metaphor for our lives right now as Andy turns 18 this week and is working toward completing his journey from childhood to adulthood.

We are right in the thick of the “transition” nitty gritty. (For those who might not be familiar with the term, “transition” means moving from high school to adulthood—college, employment, etc.) People with disabilities sometimes deal with extra bumps along the road and need to figure out extra guide maps as they go through this transition—like applying for Social Security, finding job support, getting help with job placement, and figuring out what support is needed for adult life.

I’m sharing our road trip to adulthood so you can learn from our journey. And, of course, I’ve asked Andy’s permission, and he said it’s alright for me to share to help other families like ours. Our road trip will certainly be different from yours, so I’m just hoping we can learn from each other, share ideas, and explore this new territory together. I’m Andy’s mom, and I also work at the University of Kentucky’s Human Development Institute on a collaborative program, KentuckyWorks, to improve employment outcomes for people with intellectual disabilities. So, I care about navigating this journey for my family and also making sure everyone else can figure out their destination and find the most helpful maps and guidebooks along the way.

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Just to give a little background, I was 23 when Andy was born, and he ‘s the oldest of three children with two younger sisters. He’s currently a Junior in high school and is included among typical peers for athletic medicine, weight training, and science with a modified curriculum and para-professional support. This year, he has been pulled out for a small self-contained class for reading, math, and social studies (though some years he attends social studies in the regular education environment depending on the subject.) Reading and math are very challenging for him even though he’s quite talented at figuring out electronics, photography, and learning facts about science and history. He changes classes and goes to lunch independently, and he rides the bus among his peers–though he hardly ever lets his sister sit next to him.

Andy is on a mountain biking team and just completed his Eagle Scout award. He has lots of friends and enjoys going out on dates and to every available dance!

Andy currently works at a local grocery store as a front service clerk, and he also works as a photographer at his dad’s design studio. He’s a really talented landscape and cityscape photographer–and we ultimately envision he can sell canvas prints and photo books. After high school he wants to work more hours at the grocery store and his dad’s studio, go on a church mission, and go to a post-secondary (college) program designed for people with intellectual disabilities. He’s also interested in fitness and working in that field. This is our “hoped for” destination for the road trip, and we’re looking forward to a bright future, but we have lots to navigate in the next couple of years to figure it all out. Come join us!

Where are you right now on the transition road trip: just starting with a young child, beginning the school years, starting high school and “real transition,” or ready to get out and start working or going to college? What are your hopes, fears, and dream destinations?