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Special needs

He's off...

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He's off...

Peter just completed his first week of college at Benedictine University in Mesa. Here he is with his student ID around his neck. Honestly I am speechless. Words can not begin to describe how I feel about all of this. I am not sure if he will continue all the way to graduation but I NEVER thought I would see him sitting in a Freshman orientation class at college. Everything about this experience is a miracle. From the size of the school (about 150 people) to the fact that the entire campus is in a two story building, to the fact that it is Catholic (and Peter is a devout Catholic). The list goes on and on. How about the fact that I was able to retain his aid from high school? All of it is NOTHING like I thought or should I say none of my fears have played out.

I feel overjoyed that Peter is getting the experience of college! I have some work to do such as an updated 504 plan etc. but so far things have gone smoothly. The very fact that this school was not even in the Mesa area until 2013 is a miracle! The school is filled mostly with athletes who are there on scholarship. It's a great group of kids, very diverse, and full of kindness. Peter is using Dial a Ride for his personal transportation (another step towards independence). I am trying to get to the place where if I am gone to work when he leaves it still works.

Creating a new plan for adulthood when special needs is considered is just part of the game plan. I am always striving for more with Peter. Always pushing to step out of the picture MORE. It's weird because with your typical kids you are almost a little sad to be out of the picture yet when you have special needs to consider it is a totally different game and perspective. Even one single job where I am not needed such as driving becomes a step towards independence, an achievement for him personally.

Lately I have been assisting  him in making his own business calls. He is beginning to learn the importance of advocating for himself even on the phone. The other day the Dial a Ride was late to pick him up and he called the office and gave them a piece of his mind. Even little incidents such as that are good for him. 

Well I am thankful for this kind of start to a new school year! I am filled with hope! 

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Working Hard Everyday...

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Working Hard Everyday...

We work everyday with Diesel. We take him everywhere. Peter and Diesel have developed so much during the last few weeks. It has been wonderful to see the relationship between these two grow! Peter has learned to take good ownership of Diesel. He is always on top of Diesels behavior and is always working hard to keep Diesel up on all his training. After all the work it was to get Diesel I am very satisfied with how things have been working out. I am beginning to believe that this was the right choice for Peter. He has grown so much just in the last month by having the responsibility of Diesel. 

In this picture we are at Ikea. Diesel is good at keeping the pace of Peter’s wheelchair and has done well at sitting down while Peter is looking at something. He goes under the table when we go out to a meal and he waits for his commands. I think the largest challenge right now is exercising him enough. That may always be the challenge for Peter. I am working at getting a treadmill so that we can put him on that for exercise especially during the hot summer months.  

As of now Peter feels he is ready to take Diesel to college with him. Peter and Diesel have been taking practice trips down to the school every few days. All of that has been working well. I think we just may be ready for school to start over here.

I can hardly believe the boys will be starting college in a couple of weeks! It is strange not having high schooler’s anymore! I felt like high school years lasted a long time. When I added it up I was at Horizon High School for 9 years (well I had an off year in there but it was always on my mind). And now it is all finished. My guess is that I will never walk into that school again. That feels weird too. It is so strange closing the different chapters of raising your children. The chapters of raising your children seem as if they will be open forever when you are in the middle of it but then all of a sudden it is over and the chapter is closing.  

Finding your footing at the end of parenting takes some intentional work. I know I have blogged several times about this and to be honest I’m not sure I have my legs yet. I keep thinking I should. But I don’t. Sometimes I worry I never will. I know I will never stay the same in life and I know things will work the way they are suppose to work out but there are times I wonder if I will get some sort of life back. I think I always feel this a bit after summer break. All summer I focus on pushing the kids to become more independent. I become very focused on spending time with them and developing them as individuals but in the process I lose myself a bit. Maybe that is what I am feeling (in the background right now Peter is watching a cartoon, one that I feel like I have heard in the background of my life for 20 some years).   

I have been working hard at creating a new mindset as my nest begins to empty. I am trying so hard to figure out how to get rid of some of my responsibilities with Peter so that I am able to go back to work. I can only picture myself working part time as of now but I am trying to figure out the best solution. I guess only time will tell. I desire to remain open to whatever it is that God purposes for my life. I pray that my mind and spirit will be flexible and able to move in the direction I am called. I pray that I will not be caught up in what I plan and desire but rather open myself to whatever it is God plans. I pray my desire to be rigid in my thinking will decrease and that I will be open instead to various possibilities.    

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Meeting Diesel's Puppy Raiser...

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Meeting Diesel's Puppy Raiser...

Right before graduation we got to meet the sweet lady that raised Diesel as a puppy. She was responsible for potty training him, teaching him to sleep under tables, and to wear his service vest with pride. She loved Diesel. She cried when she met Peter and was touched that she had been raising Diesel for Peter although she had never met him. She prepared a sweet book showing Peter all the pictures she had taken along the way and was so encouraging to him. She lives in a small town in Montana and she showed Peter that Diesel had been raised on a farm like land with horses and beautiful surroundings. She was happy that he was coming to Arizona because she visits here from time to time. She encouraged Peter to lead Diesel with confidence. She told Peter she was excited that Diesel was going to college. She told him that Diesel would love his new adventure.

I am starting to understand why this endeavor was important for us to do together. I am starting to understand why I needed this class as much as Peter needed it. I am beginning to see why I have been feeling so pushed in my own perspective. I think we get used to performing a specific way in life and we don’t really take the time to re-evaluate whether it is still appropriate or not until we get a new light shed upon the subject.  A new light shed upon an old subject can make you feel defensive, like you need to protect yourself from the insight that is staring you in the face. It can make you feel like if you admit that doing things a different way may make you wrong in how you have been doing things. Why are we so attached to our own way of doing things? Why must we judge ourselves as right or wrong? Why can’t I just get over myself and change? Why am I so enmeshed with my perspective? 

As we leave Oregon with our new dog I leave with a new perspective. One that will challenge me for a while I am sure. One that I will have to work on to not feel defensive or like a failure over but will use to guide my steps. Getting a new perspective is hard! Allowing it to be an agent of change in your life is challenging. But I am thankful for the challenge. Although the last several weeks have pushed me beyond my comfort zone I am grateful that I opened myself up to it. I have remarked several times this trip was one of the most difficult, eye opening, and personally exhausting adventures I have ever taken. I have never questioned more why I opened myself to it. In fact it hurt me a bit living here. I felt at times crushed. I have been exhausted from giving and wished I had the comforts I am used too.  But through all of that I have grown in new ways. Ways I have needed to grow. I have grown on my own, without being with Jeff, family, or friends. I think that is what was also difficult but I believe that is what made it more self-reflective. I had no one else to push the growth on. And now on to new insights and growth…

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And the Winner is DIESEL!!!

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And the Winner is DIESEL!!!

After five long days of training we were awarded Diesel as Peter’s new service dog! Diesel was the exact dog Peter was hoping for and watching the two of them on the day of the announcement was so cool! This picture was taken moments after they announced that Diesel would be coming home with us. Peter and I were so happy that we were finished with working with several different dogs! This would be the very first day that we would take Diesel back to the little house in the forest with us. He would sleep beside Peter and we would continue to work on all the training skills they taught us during the last five days. We would now begin to learn to love our new dog Diesel. And Peter would begin to learn the responsibility of having a dog rely on him.

The training classes have been far more intense then I ever imagined. They are eight-hour days. We sit in a room and listen to long lectures and then we practice what we have learned with the dogs. It is intense. Now that we have been awarded Diesel we will start going on outings. These outings are good times to learn how to deal with Diesel in public settings.

I have become aware of how difficult it is to own a highly trained dog. You must constantly stay on top of his training and be very disciplined with him. I love that Diesel may be the vehicle of responsibility for Peter. Although Peter was not sure he really wanted a service dog when we began this journey I think he has grown to already accept Diesel.  I believe that for Peter to own a dog that can assist him a bit and will bring him companionship will be a positive thing. Diesel has a gentleness about him that is hard to explain. His big brown eyes looking at you for assurance. It is a start into a new journey a beginning of a new relationship.  Only time will tell where this companionship will go and how it will develop.

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Peter and I head to training for a Service Dog...

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Peter and I head to training for a Service Dog...

We have just arrived in Oregon! We will be going to Grants Pass to do all the training for our new service dog! Training goes every single day from 8:30-5:00pm! Jeff drove us up to Oregon but he will be going home after the first day of training. Then it will just be Peter and I. I have rented a house in the forest for the two of us. When I say it is in the forest I am not joking it is deep in the forest and it is about a half hour from class.

I love Oregon so I am looking forward to my time in Oregon but I am nervous because I have not been the sole caretaker for Peter for two weeks in a long time. That takes a lot of strength to do all the transfers and showers etc. I usually get a lot of help from Jeff. So working these two weeks with Peter may be a physical challenge.

We started our trip off by enjoying dinner in Ashland. We have been to Ashland before with the entire family back when everyone was young. I really like the town it is supper fun and charming. Peter fell in love with a restaurant there and in his usual way he made instant friends with the manager, Dexter. Dexter loved Peter right back. Peter said after meeting him for the first time, “I wish I lived in Dexter’s neighborhood because I would say hi to him every night when he came home from working at the restaurant.” Such a simple thought but such a meaningful idea. We left the restaurant that night knowing it would not be our last time there. 

Peter told Dexter that we were in Oregon to get his service dog. He promised that he would bring his dog back to the restaurant after we got him. Dexter told him he could come back anytime and he would be treated like a king. 

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