Once upon a time, there was a family of a mother, father, sister and brother. Pretty normal stuff right? Well, it might have been— but we learned early on that our son, Corey, had many developmental challenges. From his first diagnosis we knew life would be anything but normal. For us, normal meant speech therapists, OT, PT, tutors, not being invited to birthday parties, psych evaluations, IEPs, lots of meetings with public school teachers and administrators. Over the years, we learned quite a bit about chemistry, drugs, and what happens when they do not work well together. But normal also meant TOPSoccer, inclusion basketball, therapeutic riding, and finding some excellent educational situations and summer camps. It meant finding an entire subculture of similarly-situated families, all seeking the best opportunities for their children to thrive and succeed, in a world that was not ready to embrace and welcome the concept we know to be true – that children like mine are part of a community that possesses the will and desire to be productive and succeed. They just lack some of the key skills to do so.
There was and is hard work to do, and it is never ending, but what did we get for it? Our son had fun and played well in soccer and basketball through Special Olympics of Maryland, was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame of the Greater Washington Jewish Community Center, went to travel camp, went to summer camp, participated in BBYO and graduated with a high school diploma. He became the master of the public transportation system in Montgomery County, and gained employment as a Guest Experience Representative at the Washington Nationals.
So now what? At age 22, he is, for the first time, experiencing independent, but heavily-supported living. He needs significant daily living supervision and support to make it on his own. He needs a job for other than the baseball season, and he needs a community where he can belong.
He wants all of this. We do too. We need to make it happen not only for our son but for all of the sons and daughters who want the same thing, and who can achieve that level of independence with the help of daily support for medications and living skills. He wants to belong – to be part of a community where they can all care for each other, pull for each other to succeed, and be welcomed by the community at large.
Our story, like so many others, demonstrates the urgent need for Main Street. Making Main Street a “success” really means that we have fostered and allowed others to personally succeed. It can be done. Main Street can be the pebble dropped in calm waters starting ripples that emanate outward far beyond the original point of beginning. The time to act is now.