Moving forward

I have been asked numerous times over the last month, if I have read the series of articles the Star Tribune published. A Matter of Dignity The Star Tribune’s five-part series examines how Minnesota is failing thousands of disabled adults. Truthfully I didn’t read all of them. As a parent of a young adult with Down syndrome, some of them were just too hard to read. They confirmed my worst fears about Katlyn moving out into the world. The first article titled Gov. Dayton, legislators prepare far-reaching reforms to disability services, pictured a Down syndrome man picking up trash near a landfill. The article goes on to explain he only makes about $2 an hour, but more importantly picking up trash it is not what he wants to do with his life.

I am shocked to find out Minnesota has fallen behind much of the nation in efforts to integrate people with disabilities into the communities. We have so much in the way of programs for younger people with disabilities, I naively thought these programs would continue.

Link to the article: A Matter of Dignity: A five-day special report : Gov. Dayton, legislators prepare far-reaching reforms to disability services

Katlyn has been working in the community through a program at school for five years. She loves to work and no job is too small. We have been fortunate she has worked with some lovely people who truly cared about her. But in all this time she has never been asked what SHE wants to do. The school district job coach places them where they can. There are a limited number of jobs in the community to place the high school and transition adaptive students. Soon after this article came out, Katlyn was actually asked what she wants to do after she graduates from the transition program. Her answer was “I want to be on TV.” Her second answer was “Working with clothes.” The next week the state vocational job coach came to speak with Katlyn and offered her a chance to participate in a retail training program, run through Goodwill, working with Macy’s.

I am not sure we ever would have heard about this program if the articles would not have come out shedding light on the working conditions of our disabled. The state vocational coach mentioned several times the goal is to get Katlyn into a job in the community who will pay at least minimum wage. I really had not thought about what she would get paid or even if she would ever get paid. All my thoughts focus on her safety. I worry she is not ready for this, she is too vulnerable for this foray into the real world. But I think it may be me who is not ready for her to enter the world.

We met with the job coach today at Macy’s to talk about the training program Katlyn will attend for eight weeks. The job coach said something that hit home, “We have to challenge them, to see what they can do, because they can do much more than we think they can.”