Struggling into adulthood

Much of the debate around the transition for the families of young adults with learning difficulties relates to the challenges of service provision. The focus is invariably around the difficulties that families have in moving from Children’s to Adult Services. The differences in the way that services work, the sudden move from school hours to uncertain hours. Our perspective of the transition is shaped by our relationship with service providers and the constraints that that imposes.

And don’t get me wrong those constraints and challenges are profound – but having been through at least some of the transition I’ve come to realise they are only a part of what it entails – they shape it , define its limitations and its opportunities – but the richest and most complex part of the tapestry of the Transition is perhaps best viewed from a personal perspective. The interwoven threads of young adults, mothers, fathers, carers, brothers and sisters – each struggling to find a way forward, at a time when everything is changing and we don’t realise just how much.

The paradox is that what changes most is what always changes when we struggle into adulthood. We struggle to define ourselves. We seek an identity that mark’s our uniqueness. We rage against the arbitrary imposition of authority – whether it’s the authority of parents or systems. These are the hallmarks of all of our transitions and they are as true for a person with a learning difficulty as they are for anybody else.

Imagine being twenty and discovering that there are no careers for you. Imagine realising that you will not make the decisions that shape the rest of your life and that you will have no real say in the things that you do. What would you do if you had no choices; no sense of control. Imagine your frustration and your rage. And it’s indicative of our disabilism that so many will respond to that comparison with the thought that’s it’s different for them.

This year my son told me that he didn’t want to continue going to college for four days a week. I was confronted with a barrage of ‘he doesn’t know what’s good for him’ and ‘you are creating a rod for your own back’ and an overwhelming consensus that I was wrong to listen to him. But I know what happens when he isn’t listened to – I know what happens when you don’t get his agreement. He doesn’t have to get his way but he does have to feel that has been involved in the choice. We had arrived at an age when the consequences of him not being listened were potentially too significant.

So I listened – It took six months of fighting to get people to accept his choice and without the support of his social worker he probably would have been ignored. But I now have an assertive yet happy young man who has agreed that he has to work – although we are still having some debate as to exactly how much.

We are currently working on the development site for our first website [ Mikey is now working on his second site MikeysStories ]. He does the photos and he has just started content managing the pages themselves – I’m hoping we’ll get other young people to record the stories of their communities, interests and projects  – we’ve a long way to go but at least we have an idea of a destination.


2 thoughts on “Struggling into adulthood

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s