As both Ashley and Ronnie have stepped into adulthood (they both turned 18 this year), my focus is on helping them become more independent. For a person with severe disabilities becoming more independent can mean many things - cooking, cleaning, advocating for themselves, etc. Both Ashley and Ronnie are still in school, and will be for a few more years, and the school is doing a good job of preparing them for employment. In addition, both have personal care aides who are working hard to instill a sense of independence in them. While this path to becoming more independent can be difficult, and progress is sometimes slow and difficult to see, every so often a new found skill of independence jumps up and high fives me. That happened this past Saturday.
Chip, Ronnie, Ashley and I were headed out to dinner to celebrate Chip's 23rd birthday. I drove to the restaurant, parked in a parking deck, and began the normal wheelchair-unloading, back pack hauling, helping Ashley out of the car routine. But before I could get to Ashley, she had undone her seatbelt, opened the car door, stepped out, steadied herself, stepped away from the door, closed the door, and waited for her wheelchair.
Did you get that? ASHLEY GOT OUT OF THE CAR ALL BY HERSELF!!!
While it may not sound like much to most people, trust me, it is HUGE. If Ashley can get herself out of the car, she can learn to get herself on and off a bus or a disabled transportation van. It means her world will open up, and she won't be dependent on others to always assist her in her travels.
Ashley set one small piece of dependency aside on Saturday, and I can't be any happier or prouder!!!
Tomorrow - Ronnie wants so badly to be independent. But is he doing all he can to get there????