The True Meaning of Letting Go
Transitioning for any individual can create anxiety. For individuals with special needs and their parents, it’s both frightening and exhilarating. The individual is preparing to leave the familiarity of his or her school in order to enter a new world of post-secondary education, employment, and a life of independence.
Under federal guidelines, the process of transition for an individual with special needs begins at the age of 14 and continues to age 21/22. For parents of special needs individuals, the ideal approach to transitioning involves working with your school’s transition specialist and your state’s department of vocational rehabilitation services, creating a plan that enables the young adult to move from the world of entitlement to that of eligibility.
My daughter Ellie, at the age of 18, is in the midst of the transition process, which fills me with pride – and fear! For the past 18 years, I have put my heart and soul into Ellie. With the help, guidance, and support of family and friends, medical professionals, Katherine Thomas School, psychologists, therapists, behavioral specialists, transitional specialists, neuropsychologists, and many others, I have done everything humanly possible to help Ellie become the person she is today: an individual with special needs who is capable of leaving home for continuing education. That’s right – Ellie is leaving home!
This summer, Ellie will begin a post-secondary program in another state, hundreds of miles away from me. If all goes according to plan, Ellie will graduate from this program in June 2014 with a vocational certificate, ready to live and work independently in the “real world.”
Ellie is going to her “college” and she is so proud. She has come a long way since being diagnosed at birth with OFD Type 1. She is so excited she can hardly wait, while I am struggling mightily with letting go of my darling daughter. I am frightened to death! I lose sleep and cry, worrying about how she will cope without me. Or is it about how I will cope without her? Am I worried that Ellie won’t be okay without me, or that I won’t be okay without her? Her leaving will be a huge loss for me and in the same light I am so proud of Ellie.
On the other hand, I will finally have the time to focus on my other beautiful daughter, 16-year-old Emily. Despite having to settle for less of my time as I have been consumed with Ellie for all of her life, Emily has become a wonderful young lady with great aspirations including an Ivy League education, pre-med, and a career as a trauma surgeon.
Naturally, Emily is thrilled that she will have her mom all to herself for the next 2 years. And I am just as excited to be able to give her my undivided attention. She has dealt with a lot having a sister with special needs, as such siblings always do. It is time for me to give her what I have given Ellie – my entire heart and soul. And in 2 years, when she too is ready to leave the nest, I will be filled with just as much pride and sorrow as I feel now with Ellie’s impending departure.
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