Envisioning Anne's Future

by Jane Gerhardt

October 26, 2016

We sat around a table in a conference room in our 14 year old daughter's middle school. "So how do you envision Anne's future? What do you think she'll be doing for employment and where do you think she'll live?" the transition coordinator asked us. My husband and I were flabbergasted. Anne was still completing What Time Is It? clock face worksheets for homework. Did they really expect us to predict what she would do and where she would live in 15 or 20 years? We couldn't even answer that question about our high school senior. Frankly, maybe we couldn't answer it about ourselves.

At age 14, the magic transformation to Transition happens. Ready or not. We were definitely not ready. Anne is 19 now and we're still not ready. But we are getting there. We still cannot answer those questions, which cause me greater anxiety than anything else in my life. I still wake at 4 a.m. some nights and try to puzzle out the answer to those terrifying questions.

I've started to feel a little better because we're thinking hard about where Anne was going and how long it would take to get there. Anne started doing volunteer work to put something on her resume. She worked as a summer intern for a local election official and on Saturdays in a salon during the holiday season. She just got a part-time job as a bagger at our neighborhood Kroger store. We hope these jobs will help her figure out what she likes and what she dislikes and to learn to value work and a paycheck. I can't say she loves all this work but who among us always does? Just like our sons, Anne is expected to work to support herself as she becomes an adult.

Transition to independent living is a whole different matter. Anne will need plenty of supports and will want to live with one or more friends for companionship. We don't know where or how that housing will be funded, but we've opened an ABLE account to help her along the way. We attend every seminar and networking event in our city to learn about the creative housing solutions others are considering. We have our eye on a neighborhood with lots of walkable employment and social options, with restaurants, stores, doctors' offices, a gym and a theatre. We are very much involved in our community and make sure Anne is out there and engaged as well.

We still have no answers but our actions and hers are constantly focused on creating her independent future.