Making connections with adult siblings of people with disabilities and the people who love them

Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

Plato’s Transition From High School

Transitions are a very important part of life and for most people high school is a very large period of transformation. This is the period of our life that we go from being children to young adults and this transition can affect us thorough our lives.

By the time we, Plato and I, entered high school, Plato was set back a year so now he was in my grade level.  Alabama was going thorough a period of integration and were bussing children to provide diversity in schools.  So, we were bussed to a school far out in the rural part of Alabama called Mary G. Montgomery High School. I had already lived through the title and stigma of being called Plato’s sister in elementary and middle school and saw High School as a chance to overcome the title and start a new. This school did not know about him and I could redefine myself. So, my freshmen year of high school I made it my point to became the best at everything I could participate in at school.  I made the honor roll, became student council president, a student Ambassador to Russia, homecoming queen runner up, and Miss Viking, basically I became an avid over achiever or goody two shoes.  I did all of this just to out shine my brother’s condition. I hate to admit it but I did not tell people he was my brother at first. Now, If they asked me if he was my brother I would say yes but if they were talking about the weird new kid at school I promptly walked away without saying a word. Yes, I am ashamed of this time in my life and I constantly try to atone for it.

During this time, the roles switched and by sophomore year, Plato was now known as Regina’s brother. We did not mind this switch because I was able to throw my will around school and keep older boys from messing with him. I remember being in class and seeing him get cornered in the hallway, and I immediately left my classroom, ran down the hall, and stood between my brother and the boys. I got in their faces and said, “If you touch him, I will get my friends and kick your A@%.” So, my popularity helped and I did not get in trouble from my teacher for leaving the classroom because I was known for being an excellent student.

Getting Plato through high school was a challenge. I had to go to all his teacher’s classes, get his assignments, and relay messages back to my parents. My father even had to finally go and sit in the classroom with him to make sure he focused on his tests to graduate from high school. The sad thing was that we were not able to find a college or secondary school that could house or educate him at the time. He is so incredibly smart but also very independent and will just walk away whenever he feels like it. Most group homes mandated the residents do everything at the same time.

We tried a group home for him but they panicked when he drove off to Wal-Mart to get some items. They finally said that he was just too difficult to participate in their program because he wanted to do things on this own time. I am not sure what is available for young adults with ID/DD now but I would love to see a program that had an apartment complex and housed adults with developmental disabilities in their own individual apartments with a roommate or two around their same level of independence.  I could see a group leader coming in once a day to make sure that ate, took their medication, or got to work. Then they would be free to do what they wanted to on their own time schedule. It would also be nice if a company would employ these individuals, provide transportation to and from work, and give them jobs that match their interest and skill levels.  I would be interested in finding out what is available to adults with DD/IDD now and programs that focus on maximizing their independence.

What have been your experiences with transitions? What has worked and what challenges remain?

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Welcome to Plato’s Sister

Plato’s Sister

Welcome to the blog called “Plato’s Sister”. The purpose of this blog is to reach out to the adult siblings of individuals with developmental disabilities, build a community where readers can share their hopes and dreams, provide a place to express challenges and concerns facing our siblings, and share information that can help foster transitions from parental care to adult sibling care. We also want to celebrate and discuss the memories that established special sibling bonds and discuss the next steps /new roles in the relationship as caregiver, guardian, and/or advocate with/for our siblings with developmental disabilities.

First of all, I would like to explain why I chose “Plato’s Sister” as the name for the blog. My older brother, Plato, was diagnosed with “classic autism” at the age of four from the T.E.A.C.H. program in North Carolina. We moved from North Carolina to a small town in Alabama when he was seven years old. No one in this town had ever heard of autism and his behavior quickly made him the center of attention from teachers and student at the elementary school we attended. (Now, let me state that this was 40 plus years ago and a lot of people had no idea what “Autism” was or how to treat it, not just this small town.) So, when I started school one year behind him I was immediately called “Plato’s Sister” and that was my name through elementary and middle school. Very few people, outside of my classmates and close friends, even knew my name.

At the age of six, I had to answer questions from adults and students about why Plato behaved the way he did. I also had to help members of the community understand autism better. My brother told me once that, ”Having autism was like being an alien on a strange planet and that whenever you tried to understand the people on this planet it hurt and you had to run back to your on world.” So, this was my answer to question I was often asked.  As a child I hated the label, “ Plato’s Sister” and all the questions that followed. However, as I got older and wiser, I first learned to accept it and now I look back on those times with loving memories.

My life was shaped because of my brother Plato and having him in my life made me a better person. I feel my patience, sense of humor, ability to understand, and my determination was gained from living with a sibling with a developmental disability.  My brother Plato also influenced my view that everyone can learn and has something to offer. When you love someone with a developmental disability your world slows down and you learn to appreciate the small things in life. You gain a perspective that is priceless and that a person is so much more than what you see and hear on the exterior. I am reminded of the words from President Theodore Roosevelt that stated,” For those who fight for it, life has a flavor the privileged will never know.”

I want all the adult siblings of individuals with developmental disabilities that read this blog to share their experiences, give us ideas for topics, and help us advocate for our brothers and sisters.  I want the format of this blog to open with a memory of a situation we faced, followed with how we handled it or should have handle it, and conclude with helpful information. If you have any advice, memories, or questions please feel free to share them on this blog and we will try to help you find the answers, laugh or cry from your memories, and/or celebrate your battles won on the behalf of your sibling.

 

Sincerely,

Plato’s Sister

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