The other evening I was standing in the back of a graduation ceremony. It was a two-week summer program one of my sons was in, our middle child. It is a program we sent our oldest to before and it is a great college prep program. This program helps high schoolers be prepared for what they will see in college, it is an intensive program that really opens there eyes to how the world will be once they leave home.
It began with the usual thanking everyone who played some role in making the program happen and all of the usual pomp and circumstance that goes along with these ceremonies. But as I watched what was transpiring from the platform a young man came and sat down in the grass in front of me. I would not have noticed him at all had he not started immediately to fidget and rock in his place. I also noticed that soon after he arrived so did a young lady who sat next to him who began talking to him and she was clearly watching over what he was doing.
Since, because of our own child with a disability and the last 15 years of serving families with disabilities, I saw some of the behaviors I am familiar with and I made a few assumptions. I assumed he was the sibling of someone in the program, coming to watch the event with the rest of us. After all there were children from all over the U.S. and a few from other countries. Surely he would cheer when his siblings name was called and my suspicions would be validated.
Much to my surprise they didn’t call a siblings name but this young mans name. He rose walked to the front to receive his certificate and as he did he received a standing ovation from the rest of the students.
This really struck me, how far we have come! Even in my children’s lifetime. When we started a Sunday school class we called special friends, over a dozen years ago, we learned that less than 1% of churches had a program. An article last month stated that now that number is as high as 20%. The college our son wanted to attend has only been in existence for ten years and had never had a student with special needs. Now it has a junior, which we couldn’t be prouder of. And this young man who had come to be a part of a program which is preparing our youth for the future is breaking ground for himself and future students who will go on to colleges and universities.
What is happening in the world of disabilities is astounding! Families are breaking ground in ways never thought possible; making new roads to opportunities for their children that previously didn’t exist. Most of all the stereotype scenario’s of what our children can and can’t accomplish are gone, and to them I say “see ya”. It is a new day for those who are living with challenges, instead of the dread of what the future might hold, I say bring it on!
The challenges that come with a diagnosis will always be with us and certainly I will not minimize the struggles many parent are facing, but as I stood and watched this young man receive his applause from his piers I couldn’t help to smile and like which way the future is trending!