Graduation (warning, I get a bit spicy)

This is an odd year for us. We knew our son would be graduating high school, but not our daughter. She LEGALLY according to federal law was supposed to be supported by her high school until the age of 22. She has been in a self-contained life skills class since she started in preschool. She needs the assistance of a one-on-one aide at school for being mobile and accessing her education. However, the district has decided that she is “done”. They said they have helped her as much as possible these 12 years, she has earned her credits, and gets to graduate. Well, let’s throw up the cap and celebrate!

Wait, hold up, stop for just one moment!?!? She is nonverbal, not able to work a job – even in sheltered employment, and cognitively many years behind her chronological age, but good to know the local school system feels she “deserves” to graduate. I never expected her to graduate. Yes, she has worked hard over the years learning to walk, socialize, use a communication device, and basic life skills. No, she is not a fully functioning student ready to be sent out into the world. I expected her to stay in a safe place, her school, until age 22. I expected them to continue to work on helping her to be a valued, accepted person and work on the life skills she has not mastered yet.

I reached out to a special needs lawyer and found out that Arizona has some sort of loophole. The district can “say” that a special education student has met their graduation requirements, even though they did NOT meet the state’s own graduation requirements. Confusing, right? So, functional math of learning one to one number correspondence and the value of coins equals the four years of algebra, geometry, and pre-calculus that my other child had to labor through. Thanks Arizona!

The special education department tried to cheer me up by saying I should be happy my daughter won’t be stuck in the same room with the same teachers she has had for the past four years. It’s time for her to enjoy the local state resources available. Great, thanks for sending us out into the world of adult day care programs where my 19-year-old nonverbal child can be parked in a wheelchair surrounded by handicapped men in their 50’s. If parents do not place their disabled child in a group home, there are adult day care programs created for all ages after departure from high school. Sadly, due to lack of staffing and funding to help our community of people with disabilities, they have to be lumped into one big group. There are fabulous programs out there, they told me. Yes, they were geared toward older clients, but surely there were ones that could work for us. I have not found one yet. I have been searching. Some have long waitlists and others have a ratio of 5 -10 males to 1 female. That does not sound safe to me either.

I am doing my homework, reaching out to amazing organizations that help young adults with disabilities transition to working, living on their own, and being somewhat independent. I have cried many tears, prayed many prayers that she could be that independent, but my daughter will never be able to do those things. She will live with us as long as God gives us breath and the strength we need. Why will the schools not support us then? Why will they not continue to provide the safe space of learning to bridge the gap until our babies are truly the “adult age” of 22?

My only choice for next year seems to be that I quit my teaching job and become her full-time life skill teacher. I love spending time with her, but I am also her mom… We don’t see to eye-to-eye sometimes and even a nonverbal child can throw “shade”. I do not want her to lose the autonomy she felt at school to be social and tell jokes with her peers. This blog post is a bit spicier than my past ones, but it had to be said. Please reach out to me if you are in the same boat. We can navigate this new season together. Share this with others if you think I can help them.

I am trying to practice hope every day. It is only in the practice that it becomes a habit.

Love you all,


4 Comments on “Graduation (warning, I get a bit spicy)

  1. I am so sorry this is happening to you and your daughter and your family! It is maddening when our “systems” can not (or will not!) function appropriately! Blessings on your search for help!


    • Gretchen, thank you for reading and the blessing. God will use this for good. I just had to get my frustration out. Take care!


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