The College Years
The time came to visit some college campuses. Mike really wanted to go to school in Florida, but the realization of his progressive disability caused him to look closer to home.
Dennis and I took him to a couple right here in Pennsylvania. He decided on Kutztown University because the area was pretty flat without too many hills to climb.
State assistance to navigate the college campus
Mike struggled more with walking any distance. We found out about OVR (Office of Vocational Rehabilitation).
This is a state program designed to assist people living with a disability to be prepared for the working world. A caseworker advocated for his needs.
There was some financial assistance for tuition, and equipment needed to give him the physical assistance needed.
Mike was able to get an electric scooter. This was essential to get him around campus with safety and ease.
Making new friends in college
He found new freedom while keeping up with his peers. We knew he was so happy and excited about leaving home and just spreading his wings.
My worry was that he would look vulnerable on the scooter and could be taken advantage of. In reality, he made friends so quickly and had the guys looking after him.
My introduction to the caliber of his new friends was on the first parent’s night. The guys did all the planning for us parents to meet and have dinner together.
Caring friends to support his needs
When dinner was over I jumped up to go down to help Mike out of his chair. One of the guys put his hand out and said “We got this”.
I now understood that Mike was okay and these new friends cared about him. And more importantly, they understood what his needs were.
Another learning experience for a parent. Let go and allow the goodness in people to provide for his needs.
His upbeat personality served him well and provided him with good friends and great experiences.
Issues with laundry and accessibility
Surprisingly it was a college administrator who gave us a challenge. Since the dorm's laundry room was down a flight of stairs, Mike had a real problem getting his laundry done.
In talking with the administrator, we asked for a solution. He explained that this was never a problem before because disabled people were not there.
And his words were “the world is not handicapped accessible.” My answer was “no but it will be.”
The end result was that a laundry closet was put on his floor for accessibility. The lesson learned was to speak up and ask. Another step in giving Mike the tools he needed to become independent.
Continued progress and opportunities
Mike’s freshman year was successful for him and his parents too. That summer vacation, Mike got a job at the university working with their program for incoming freshman orientation. What a great experience and another building block for his confidence.
With the progress made with ADA (Americans with Disability Act), we can be assured of a more fair chance for opportunities for anyone who lives with a disability.
In our experience, the buildings, sidewalks, and public bathrooms that are all accessible are a wonderful help.
Which emotional aspect of SMA do you find most difficult?