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When Your Itinerary Changes

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By Heidi Dummer, MAOT, OTR/L, MSW, LICSW

It is that time of year again. Graduation season has come and gone by the time you read this article. As I attended the graduation party for a young girl who is headed to DCTC, eyes set on being a receptionist (maybe), and a request for a “Cherry Berry” gift card as the only graduation gift needed, I held space for what this child’s parents were wrestling with. The excitement that their daughter graduated high school, and the obvious contrast, a reminder that she would never experience the level of independence most children grow to experience as adults. While most children are trying to get accepted to their top college choice, these parents are learning about the guardianship process.

Raising an exceptional child poses many challenges. One in five Minnesota families are raising a child with a disability or chronic health condition. Many families feel alone and isolated since 4 of 5 families in Minnesota are not raising a child with a disability or chronic health condition. Although most parents assume, perceive, and hope for a typically-developing and healthy newborn, many families will have children who are forever dependent on a caregiver. Graduation season will mean something very different for these families.

If you have a child with a chronic health condition or disability, you may find it helpful to connect with other parents managing similar situations. NAMI offers support groups for people whose children experience mental health crises. Family Voices of Minnesota connects families to one another so that they can better share knowledge and resources, and advocate for change. PACER is another organization focused on advocating and educating families who have a child requiring accommodations. The Autism Society of Minnesota is another great resource for families who have a child with autism.

On one of the first days of my pediatric coursework in OT school, Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley was shared. This piece walks you through the anticipation you experience as you prepare for a trip to Italy. However, when the plane landed, there you were in Holland. You are met with a decision: Do you feel upset and angry that you are not in Italy? Or, do you take a step back and appreciate what Holland has to offer?

I hope that this graduation season—even if it holds a different meaning for you and your child—you will find the support, encouragement, and excitement you need to fully embrace landing in Holland.

RESOURCES:

Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley https://www.dsasc.ca/uploads/8/5/3/9/8539131/welcome_to_holland.pdf

PACER Center

https://www.pacer.org/

Autism Society of Minnesota

Family Voices of Minnesota