By the time my daughter was about to turn 22 and age out of the public school system I had become confident in navigating the special education maze and finally realized what our number one priority was. After many many years of grief, anger, and frustration I came to realize that happiness for my daughter was all that I wanted. The vision statement on her last IEP said, “To truly be successful one must be happy. As Kelsey transitions into adulthood we would like to provide a path for her on which we think she will obtain that happiness. Attaining happiness however, is something different for all of us and something we each must achieve independently and at our own will.”
Kelsey was supposed to “age out” and transition into an adult program that we thought she would enjoy in May of 2020. The COVID pandemic shut everything down two months earlier in March of 2020. My daughter never was able to make the transition that we had carefully planned and more than 2 years later still hasn’t been able to attend a program “in person”. While many of us have been able to move on, our young adults with disabilities are still suffering greatly. There are not enough day programs out there and the ones operating are understaffed causing our children to sit at home with no where to go. “Transitioning into adulthood” in Massachusetts is at least in my opinion, and I’ll be kind, unacceptable.
In the meantime I was able to take advantage of an opportunity that would benefit not only my daughter but other young adults with disabilities as well. Our city was building a new $300 million+ library with a cafe space. I knew that the cafe in our new library was an ideal location for some of our young adults with disabilities in the community to be able to bring their unique talents and gifts to work every day. With enough finances, determination, and connections we created a non profit business to do just that. Chapters Coffee Carts was created with a mission to set up supported worksites for individuals with disabilities( learn more about us at www. Chapterscoffeecarts.com). It took us nearly two years and hundreds upon hundreds of hours of paperwork but we did it! Our first cart (Chapter One) has been set up in the new library in Medford MA and we currently have employed 6 individuals(my daughter included).
Kelsey comes with me every day to the library.
We have the same routine in the morning and follow the same routines throughout the day. At last she is out of the house and interacting with other people in the community. On her final Transition Planning Form under the Post- Secondary Vision a part reads, “Kelsey’s school Team would like to see Kelsey as an active and contributing member of society. The Team would like to see Kelsey possess the skills and confidence that will enable her to access and participate in the local community.” Finally that has begun to happen and she has been able to make that “transition into adulthood” and begin the next phase of her journey. A transition we never planned but one that all the same makes her happy. Out of the blue she recently told me that she doesn’t want to go to a program, she is happy where she is working at the coffee cart.
At last my daughter has “transitioned.” A transition none of us could have imagined when we began the process so many years ago. A path we created, a path that she chooses to follow and makes her happy. She is an active and contributing member of society and ready to continue the first chapter of her journey through adulthood. I don’t know where the second and third chapters will take her but for now, this first chapter, is going to be a good one.