Last night I visited the Job Shop at the Midland School. As Ethan is finishing up his high school commitments, September will herald new programming for him and a step towards adulthood and employment. Did I really just say that?
Although it is located just up the hill from the school on the same property, I had never been inside. Upon entering, I spotted a friend whose daughter and Ethan have been side by side since they were several weeks old and I can vividly remember this mom bringing her beautiful daughter into early intervention, just about 5lbs. and in a little pink bunting – how did we end up at the meeting about transitioning to vocational opportunities? Really, how?!
In the upcoming year, Ethan will begin spending one day at week in the job shop, and the rest continuing his regular activities down the hill at school. The ‘kids’ are introduced to the adult world of work by their new setting and different expectations – more independence, the firm expectation to complete tasks, learning work skills and ability to purchase coffee!
My first hint that more was going on for me than a visit to the center was the stinging tears that welled up during my first few minutes in the building. Overwhelmed? Scared? Fear of change? I still don’t know. Although it is a gentle and methodical transition to the new world of adulthood, it peeled away at the layers of a cocoon that has enclosed the last 10 years. I am truly looking forward to this ‘breaking out’ period, but know it will involve lots of change – oh, even saying the word makes me cringe!
The years preceding Midland were extremely stressful, tiring and unpredictable. Those were not a result of his school placements, but I always associate his enrollment at Midland a new chapter in his life and our family. There just hasn’t been a bad day there.
The work center is meticulously set up with tables prepared for assembly work, machines for shrink wrapping and imprinting, clerical and office set ups, and a fully functioning warehouse – this set up enables the students to be exposed to a huge range of jobs. Midland has no problem keeping their shop full of requisitions because the cost to companies is excellent and the work turned out of the center is 100% quality controlled – I was very impressed. There is opportunity to learn a huge range of job skills from the most rudimentary of tasks to full, competitive employment in the community in many different settings – retail, food service, animal care, office support, childcare and many others.
One of the opportunities that impressed me the most was the ‘Midland Helping Hands’ program. Thanks to the cleaning crews that have been formed by this program, over 50 Somerset County seniors are able to live independently due to the support they receive in the form of housekeeping services. I was also thrilled with the information that many Meals on Wheels deliveries are made by Midland graduates. I loved the fact that some of the adults are working at animals shelters and rescues. These graduates are changing their communities – for the better 🙂
The next three years will be used to help Ethan and his classmates develop job skills and helping them find jobs that they both enjoy and have the propensity to be good at. Midland has vast relationships with companies in the community and years of experience that lend themselves to the countless success stories.
My head buzzed and I broke out in hives – but it certainly was not a reflection on the outstanding program coming Ethan’s way. It’s the idea that this is where it starts. The beginning of moving my once tiny and helpless little boy into a bright and promising adulthood. I don’t know how these feelings differ from parents’ involvement in the process of dreaming, planning and helping their typically-developing young adults create a meaningful and fulfilling life. I do know that as much I want to stuff ourselves back into the little cocoon that we have enjoyed for a time – deep down inside I can feel it. A little stirring. A voice that says ‘it’s time’. Time to unfurl some wings.