So many parents with special needs kids never get to the point where they dare dream their child will ever be able to leave home – without Divine Intervention, of course. There are just too many “what ifs” that you have to deal with.
Gary and I were leaning towards that acceptance phase with Jeffrey as he graduated from Junior High and entered High School at our home in Oregon. He was doing tremendously well in school despite his physical limitations, and repeatedly we heard from the school staff that he was a “trailblazer.”
When we went in for our first IEP meeting at the High School (Taking The Backseat), the teacher in charge of Special Ed said they all felt Jeffrey could easily obtain a “modified” diploma upon graduation since he’d performed so well at the Junior High level.
But our brave son certainly was a trailblazer back then, because he piped up in front of everybody, “I don’t want a modified diploma – I want a regular diploma just like everyone else.”
Jaws dropped from many of the people present, but inside Gary and I were beaming. We’d always told Jeffrey to work hard because with “God all things were possible” (Mark 10:27).
What could the teachers really say at that point, except, “OK, then!”
And Jeffrey definitely proved to them that he could do it. I can’t tell you how many evenings after coming home from one therapy or another that he would sit in his bedroom and be typing on his computer with one finger a report or other homework assignment that was due the next day.
Often I’d go in and my heart would melt. “Jeffrey, can’t I help you with the typing? You can tell me what to say.”
His reply: “No, mom – I can do it.”
As his junior year of High School rolled around, there was a college fair going on at the local fairgrounds, and all the juniors were bused from the school to attend. Jeffrey made sure that he got to go too, so they arranged a separate wheelchair accessible bus.
His school aide told us later that he just kind of took off by himself once off the bus. He was bound and determined to check out the schools offered, even asking questions with his stuttering speech to get the information he needed.
When he came home from school that day he was beaming ear-to-ear.
“I’ve decided I want to attend Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU).”
Neither Gary nor I had heard of the college, but since Jeffrey had loved anything to do with airplanes since he was little, we weren’t surprised. That is, until we discovered that the ERAU campuses were in either Arizona or Florida!
Gary and I both felt a twinge. We felt we needed to tread carefully, as we didn’t want to dissuade him from pursuing his dream – after all, hadn’t it been us who had always told him to hang onto those dreams?
We told him we’d pray about it; but how about doing what a lot of the other kids were doing – attend the local community college for a couple years and then transfer? After all, it would be a lot cheaper!
Jeffrey did agree to check out the local college, and one day a school bus took him and his aide for a tour of the campus. Unfortunately in Central Oregon it tends to get very icy and snowy during the winter months, and Jeffrey discovered during his trip that since the college was located on hills, it was virtually impossible to get to all his classes with his wheelchair.
So began prayer like we’d never prayed before. “Lord, what would You have us do?”
And God answered in ways that simply blew our minds and strengthened our faith, just like He promises (2 Chronicles 16:9).
More to come next week!