This is my son’s final year at ECLC in Chatham, NJ. The program for the graduation year is called Transition to Employment Services. This year will be a year filled with mixed emotions. I am happy because he is graduating June 2011. I am sad because he is leaving the protective cocoon of ECLC. This has been his school and social network for 8 years. That is a very long time for any special edducation student to spend in any school. He has grown into a fine young man. But he does not bear the cognitive or social development of a 21 year old man. He has learned many things: how to read (at a 3rd grade level), to do math (at a 2nd grade level) to work in the school and in the community at various sites and to socialize with his peers. He goes into the community with the school: to the bank, to local restarauntsand stores, to the library, and on various field trips and respite trips. He also belongs to a group called Gateway to Social Opportunity which meets twice a month and goes to various events such as plays at the Paper Mill Theater and to the King Tut exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum. He also attends camp in the summers. This year he went with Camp Merryheart on a tour of the various Halls of Fame.
This year will be spent visiting potential job sites, day programs and the two year programs for next year. It will be spent working at PNY and earning a stipend. It will be spent going on hotel respites and school respites. It will be spent attending Gateway events, school dances and trips, and family outings. It will be spent getting as much as possible out of the education at ECLC. This is an exciting and scary time.
When he graduates, he will continue with some of these programs as well as joining the Alumni Program at ECLC. But what will he do next year during the day? That is what this year is about. Here are some of the options we are looking at: the Pride program in Chatham, NJ, supported employment through Community Personnel Services also in Chatham, NJ, and possibly a 2 year program at few programs located in NJ, NY, CT or PA. I have my work cut out for me.
For families like mine, graduation is an event that is happy and sad. I hope my story helps your family.
Sandra Bishins, LSW, MSW
SGB Consulting, LLC